Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Inc. v. Rivenburgh

317 F.3d 425 (2003)

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Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Inc. v. Rivenburgh

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
317 F.3d 425 (2003)

Facts

A coal company sought a mining permit in Kentucky. As a part of the permit process, the company sought authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (corps) (defendant) under § 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977. Specifically, the company sought permission to take material removed from coal mining and place it in streams, which constituted waters of the United States. Section 404 gave the corps authority to grant permits regarding fill material placed in the waters of the United States. The corps granted the permit, citing longstanding practice of the corps’ authority to issue such permits under § 404. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Inc. (group) (plaintiff) sued the corps, claiming that the material removed from coal mining was not fill material under the act. Instead, the group argued, the coal excess was better characterized as pollutant discharge, which was regulated by § 402 of the act and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. The district court sided with the group. The court concluded that “fill material” referred to material deposited in waters for construction purposes, not waste purposes. Because, according to the court, excess coal materials were waste materials, the corps had acted beyond its authority. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the group, and the corps appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Niemeyer, J.)

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