Environmental -- 2015

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. v. United States   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Definition of "discharge" under Clean Water Act

This case involves the allocation of responsibility under the Clean Water Act's civil penalties provision between various parties related to the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Two defendant companies have asked the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit's interpretation of the term "discharge" in the context of interconnected vessels and facilities through which the discharged oil passed. They argue that the Supreme Court has interpreted the word as "flowing or issuing out," but that the Fifth Circuit adopted a new interpretation of discharge as a "loss" or "absence" of controlled confinement. A petition for rehearing by the full court was denied by a vote of 7 to 6.

The NAM and other groups filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to review this case. We argued that the appeals court ruling was confusing, overbroad, and internally inconsistent, and that ambiguous statutory terms should be interpreted leniently to defendants. Billions of dollars of potential penalties in this case depend on a proper interpretation of the statutory term.

The NAM brief was filed in both the Anadarko case and a similar appeal by BP Exploration and Production Inc. On 6/29/15, the Court declined to hear these appeals.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (April 23, 2015)


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