City of Guyton v. Barrow

Court: Georgia Supreme Court
Case Number: 828 S.E.2d 366
Decision Date: May 20, 2019
Case Type: Environment
The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals and held that an antidegradation analysis was not needed to be conducted by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) before issuing a permit for a land application system (LAS) to the City of Guyton. A property owner challenged whether EPD had properly issued the City of Guyton a permit to build and operate a LAS that would apply treated wastewater to a tract of land through spray irrigation. The property owner argued that EPD had issued the permit in violation of a water quality standard known as the antidegradation rule and that EPD had failed to determine whether any of the degradation of water quality was necessary to accomodate import economic or social development in the area. After an ALJ rejected the property owner's argument and a superior court affirmed the ALJ, the property owner appealed. 

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the ALJ and the superior court and held that the plain language of the antidegradation rule required EPD to perform an analysis for nonpoint source discharges and that EPD's guidelines did not warrant deference. The Supreme Court of Georgia granted cert and concluded that the Court of Appeals was correct that the antidegradation rule was unambiguous but that the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of the regulation. The Court held that the regulation only required an analysis for point sources, not nonpoint sources. The Court noted that the property owner had not showing an other jurisdiction or authority interpreting the antidegradation analysis to apply to nonpoint sources.