The Slippery Slope: Urban Runoff, Water Quality, and the Issue of Legal Authority
Urban runoff has both ecological and economic consequences of great magnitude. For example, urban runoff is the single leading cause of beach closures nationwide. Degraded water quality affects aquatic ecosystem health and vitality, the survival of endangered species, the quality of the public's drinking water, the health of recreationalists and consumers of fish and water-based economic activity.
The Clean Water Act for several decades was perceived as primarily providing legal authority to address point source pollution. In recent years, the Clean Water Act's provisions mandating states to set water quality standards and total maximum daily loads – partly alone and partly in conjunction with point source discharge permits for urban stormwater systems under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System provisions of the Clean Water Act – have been seen as the basis of authority to regulate non-point source pollution. In addition, both state legislation and regulation and local land use planning and regulation are increasingly used to control or prevent non-point source pollution such as urban runoff.
Interestingly, Orange County is regarded nationally as an innovative leader in the use of regional planning and local controls to address urban runoff problems. Nonetheless, legal experts question whether existing legal authority is adequate, whether some innovations in urban runoff controls are actually illegal, and whether new laws and systems are needed. Possible reforms range from an overhaul of the Clean Water Act, to authorization of regional watershed planning and regulation, to revised zoning ordinances and urban planning models, to authority and incentives for market-based solutions, to many other options. The issue of authority implicates federalism, limits on the exercise of discretion, cross-jurisdictional cooperation, tensions between public power and private power, and disconnects between the nature of environmental problems and the institutions we have designed to address them. Our symposium, focused specifically on the issue of legal authority to address urban runoff problems, aims to take the current scholarship and dialogue to a higher level.
- Michael Allan Wolf, Ph.D., Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law, the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law
- Wendy E. Wagner, Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor, University of Texas School of Law
- Matthew J. Parlow, Assistant Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law
- Francesca Ortiz, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law
- John R. Nolon, Professor of Law and Counsel for the Land Use Law Center, Pace Law School; Visiting Professor, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
- John H. Minan, Professor of Law, University of San Diego Law School; Chair, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Diego Region
- Linda A. Malone, Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor of Law and Director, Human Rights and National Security Law Program, William and Mary Law School
- Donald J. Kochan, Assistant Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law
- John C. Eastman, Ph.D., Professor of Law and Director of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Chapman University School of Law
- Robin Kundis Craig, Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis
- Melissa Berry, Assistant Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law
- Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold, Boehl Chair in Property & Land Use, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville