The Attraction and Limits of Textualism: The Supreme Court Decision in PUD No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Washington Dep't of EcologyNew York University Environmental Law Journal
AbstractDuring its 1993 Term, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to consider the interaction between two federal statutory schemes: the Federal Power Act (FPA), which provides that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the authority to regulate and license hydropower projects, and the Clean Water Act (CWA), which provides that states have the authority to adopt water quality standards and that federal law will impose and enforce those standards in regulating emissions into, and the quality of, waters of the United States. The tension created by these two statutes lies not only between federal agencies, but more importantly, between federal energy regulators and state regulators of environmental and water quality. Differing views about the importance of the competing interests implicated by the interaction of the EPA and the CWA reflect a confused and controversial area of the law, highlighting the significance of hydropower licensing law in the eyes of environmental lawyers. The Supreme Court's decision in PUD No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Washington Department of Ecology resolves this controversy, holding that the state certification requirement allows states to impose significant conditions on FERC licenses to operate hydropower facilities. This Article uses the PUD No. 1 decision as an opportunity to examine how the textualist approach to statutory construction fares when two federal statutes are relevant to the issue being decided. As this Article demonstrates, the case is important because it illustrates the attraction as well as the limits of plain meaning as the basis for construing statutes when a conflict arises.
Citation InformationMichael P. Healy, The Attraction and Limits of Textualism: The Supreme Court Decision in PUD No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Washington Dep't of Ecology, 5 N.Y.U. Envtl. L.J. 382 (1996).