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Book Review: The Clean Water Act Handbook

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Clean Water Act 4thThe Clean Water Act Handbook, 4th
Edited by Mark A. Ryan
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian

With current attacks on clean water protections for rivers, lakes, streams, and other waters still making headlines, the Clean Water Act (CWA) is as relevant today as ever. Learn more about one of our most important environmental law statutes in The Clean Water Act Handbook (4th), edited by Mark A. Ryan. The contributors reflect a thoughtful balance of public and private sector attorneys, all experts in the CWA, and topics range from the broad (enforcement) to the narrow (calculating Total Maximum Daily Loads in accordance with section 303(d)). The handbook begins with the historical background of the CWA, tracing its origins from the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (the first federal statute governing water pollutions control) to the 1972 act itself, which was passed in response to a flood of litigation concerning sources discharging pollutants, as well as growing public awareness. Once grounded in the historical context of the act, the book then moves on to tackle the essentials of the various collaborative federal and state programs which have risen up to regulate water pollution.

nature water blue abstract

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

The purported goals of the CWA are eliminating pollutant discharges and providing fishable and swimmable waters, and the handbook addresses each item and related issues in turn, including explanations on implementing regulations and guidelines. The threshold (and still contentious) question of what constitutes “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which the act protects gets its own chapter, as do the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs), Section 311 Oil and Hazardous Substances Spills, the types of activities considered “discharges of dredged or fill material,” enforcement, whether civil judicial, civil administrative, criminal, or citizen suits, and how the CWA applies to federal facilities. In the absence of congressional amendments, the scope of the CWA is still being discussed by the courts, and later chapters discuss the powers and limitations of judicial review, as well as the influence exerted by successive administrations in Washington.

Even if you live in an arid, landlocked part of the country, the CWA still matters since the act affects the economy, industry, politics, technology, and much more. This handbook serves as both a practical tool for practitioners as well as a good introduction for the interested citizen to this ever-evolving statute. Though the CWA hasn’t been amended since 1990, the act is still heavily litigated, debated, and reinterpreted, so staying on top of changes is crucial. Come read this and other environmental law titles (such as The Clean Air Act Handbook) at the Library today!


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One thought on “Book Review: The Clean Water Act Handbook

  1. Pingback: New LibGuide: Environmental Law | sflawlibraryblog

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