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You are a business owner who is environmentally aware, and thus you use the local river to help generate some electricity for your small business. You are doing well using this method of energy generation, but you begin to notice that over time the river seems to be flowing more slowly, and that is causing you to have sporadic losses of power. Upon inspection, you notice the river does seem a bit slower, seem to have more debris in it, and now has a funny smell. What are some legal concepts you will need to know to understand your rights? You want to do something, but are not sure what. Then, you remember your business law textbook. What are some of the legal issues and concepts you will need to know to mount a legal fight? Be sure to support your reponse.
The challenge with this as a business owner is that under the Clean Water Act (CWA) I have limited resources to determine how we can investigate and then act on the issues that may be affecting the river. The goal of the CWA is to make navigable water safe and clean and to eliminate pollutants into the navigable waters. The challenge is the term “navigable”. Since the Supreme Court has narrowed what is considered navigable the EPA is struggling to determine what waterways are under their purview. I would first reach out to the EPA to determine if the river in question was under their jurisdiction as “navigable”. I would need to understand concepts such as point source pollution (pollution into navigable waters coming directly from a source such as a company nearby) and nonpoint source pollution (pollution from groundwater runoff that may contain fertilizer, animal waste, etc.) and if there are any large plants using the water as a coolant that they may be returning back to the river at a high enough temperature to damage the river.
Once I had an idea of these concepts and had researched if any of these may be occurring in my area I would also need to look into what laws or provisions for these existed in my state that I may be able to leverage.
At that point with my research and base knowledge I would reach out to the EPA and my appropriate state representatives or organizations asking for an investigation into why the river is slowing down. I would point out that my use of the river only enhances the environment and how critical this research would be to my business. I would also tie revenue amounts to how this impacted my business in case this was needed for a cost-benefit analysis.