A status report filed by the United States, the State of Texas, and the City of Houston says the negotiating teams from these governmental entities have agreed to a proposed settlement that each team will recommend to its governmental client. The case is a Clean Water Act (CWA) enforcement case regarding alleged illegal discharges from the City’s wastewater treatment and collection systems. According to the status report, the teams have now reached an agreement on the last key issue, the amount of the civil penalty the City will pay.
Bayou City Waterkeeper has intervened in the case, but it is not a party to the status report. Earlier, the judge told the governmental parties they did not need to include Bayou City Waterkeeper in the civil penalty negotiations.
The status report did not indicate the amount of civil penalty in the proposed settlement.
Separate Citizen Suit Still Pending
Bayou City Waterkeeper has filed a separate CWA citizen suit against the City, also alleging illegal discharges from the City’s wastewater treatment and collection systems. As discussed in a prior Alert, the City has asked the judge in that separate case to dismiss it, but the judge has not ruled on the request.
Final Settlement Must Await Formal Approvals and Comment Period
No final settlement can be reached without approval of the City, the State, and the United States. The negotiating teams are only authorized to make recommendations; they cannot bind their governmental clients.
If the governments approve the settlement, it will still not be final until the judge approves it. After all governmental entities have approved it, the proposed settlement terms will be published in the Federal Register and subject to a comment period of at least 30 days. Only after the comment period can the judge approve the settlement, and the United States can withdraw its approval after considering any comments.
For my prior Alerts on this case: United States and City of Houston Say Settlement Is Imminent in CWA Enforcement Case; Environmental Group Allowed to Intervene in CWA Enforcement Case Against City of Houston; Environmental Group Serves City of Houston with Intent to Sue Over Sewage Discharges