U.S. Water News Online
LOS ANGELES -- The California Supreme Court has ruled that
the cities of Burbank and Los Angeles cannot use cost as a reason for
not meeting federal clean water requirements in treating sewage.
The case stemmed from a dispute between the cities and the state
Water Resources Control Board over what can be dumped into the Los
Angeles River by three local water treatment plants. Together the
plants -- two in Los Angeles and one in Burbank -- process hundreds
of millions of gallons of sewage each day.
The court ruled that regional permits for discharging wastewater
"may not consider economic factors to justify imposing pollutant
restrictions that are LESS STRINGENT than the applicable federal
The justices ruled, however, that water boards could consider cost
if the pollutant limits were more stringent than the federal
standards. The court sent the case back to the lower court to decide
whether the limits in this case went beyond the federal restrictions.
David Beckman, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
Council, who argued the case before the court along with the state
attorney general's office, called the ruling "a strong victory" for
Carolyn Barnes, assistant city attorney for Burbank, said the city
was disappointed with the reversal but believes the ruling leaves
open possibilities for the city to win in the lower court.
"It wasn't an outright victory for the board," she said. "There is
some direction to go back and look at the standards, so we are
pleased in that regard."
The decision comes on the heels of two other recent water quality
victories for environmentalists.
A Superior Court judge last month rejected an effort by a
coalition of cities and developers to prevent a countywide stormwater
cleanup plan that would reduce the largest source of pollution to
California's coast. The state Supreme Court last month also let stand
a lower court decision that allows state regulators to apply
California's water quality standards to polluted runoff, and not just
to sewage treatment plants and factory discharges.
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