John Rapanos Agrees to Pay for Clean Water Act Violations

John A. Rapanos and related defendants have agreed to pay a civil penalty and recreate about 100 acres of wetlands and buffer areas to resolve Clean Water Act violations at three sites in Michigan. Rapanos attempted to level three different parcels of land, which were intended to be developed into a shopping mall and residential areas, and dug an extensive network of ditches to dry out the sites, which resulted in excavated dirt being sidecast into wetlands.

Rapanos has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and will spend an estimated $750,000 to mitigate for 54 acres of wetlands that were filled without authorization under the Clean Water Act. Rapanos has also agreed to preserve an additional 134 acres of wetlands that were unaffected by the unauthorized activity. Under the agreement, the preservation of these areas will be enforced via a conservation easement held by the State of Michigan.

"After litigating this case for a number of years, we are pleased to reach a settlement that so strongly benefits the environment and serves the public interest," said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The original enforcement action was filed against Rapanos in 1994 and the case drew national attention after the District Court ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequently sent back to the U.S. District Court for further proceedings. Rapanos challenged EPA's findings that the filled wetlands were under federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The litigation determined that Rapanos did fill wetlands under federal jurisdiction.

A parallel criminal matter is still pending and is not affected by the settlement under the agreement.

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

 

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