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John Sheehan of Clark Hill PLC Revisits the Clean Water Act in the Law360 Article, "40 Years of Clean Water Act: Muddy Aspects Remain"

November 26, 2012


– It was 40 years ago that the Clean Water Act became law when the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate overrode a veto by President Richard Nixon. John Sheehan’s article in Law360, “40 Years of Clean Water Act: Muddy Aspects Remain,” re-examines the development and controversy that still surrounds the act today.

The act, meant to guide federal law on how to properly clean up the polluted lakes, rivers and coastal waters of our nation, has become somewhat of an enforcement conundrum due to the broad levels of interpretation. Lawsuits surrounding the act have been going on since its creation and now agricultural interests are beginning to take a stand – arguing the Clean Water Act has no authority in nonpoint source pollution regulation. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground, picking up contaminants along the way and depositing them in bodies of water. With the current lack of clarity surrounding the act and mounting litigation across the nation, Sheehan argues now is the time to revisit and revamp it, and bring the act back up to match today’s needs.

To read the full Law360 article visit


In addition to his article, Sheehan participated in a panel discussion on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) conference, “Developments in Clean Water Law.” The panel, “Consent Decrees 101: What Every Clean Water Utility Should Know,” explored the negotiation and implementation of wet weather consent decrees for clean water agencies. More specifically, the panel discussed responding to CWA Section 308 letters and EPA requests for information, recognizing and using leverage to a utility’s advantage during decree negotiations, and effectively implementing a decree.

John Sheehan is a member in Clark Hill’s Washington, D.C., office. His practice focuses on litigation in both federal and state courts, and enforcement defense in environmental matters. In addition, Sheehan provides strategic advice to clients in rulemaking and permitting proceedings, and regulatory counseling. Prior to joining the firm, Sheehan served as special counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and was selected for special detail to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of General Counsel.

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