Lisa Donovan

Document Type



The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently determined that the jurisdictional bar contained in section 309(g)(6)(A) of the Clean Water Act does not preclude citizen plaintiffs from seeking equitable relief, but only bars those actions seeking civil penalties. However, this holding by the Tenth Circuit in Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union v. Continental Carbon Co. directly conflicts with prior decisions by the First and Eighth Circuits. The First and Eight Circuits have broadly interpreted the jurisdictional bar to preclude citizens from seeking civil penalties or equitable relief once an administrative enforcement action is underway. An examination of the relevant statutory language, legislative history, and policy rationale, however, reveals that section 309(g)(6)(A) was only intended to bar citizens actions for civil penalties, preserving citizens’ powerful role in the protection and restoration of the navigable waters of this country.