New State Water Resources Control Board Petition Regulations
The indefinite wait to challenge a California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s action or failure to act has come to an end. New regulations became effective on January 1 that, for the first time, place time limits on the State Water Resources Control Board to grant review of or dismiss administrative petitions filed pursuant to Water Code section 13320. Previously, the State Board had unlimited time to determine whether a petition warranted further review of the Regional Board’s action or inaction or whether the petition should be dismissed. Petitioners were consequently placed in the untenable position of not knowing whether their administrative appeal would be heard, often waiting longer than one year to learn their fate. The State Board cited a steady increase in the number of petitions filed and a lack of resources to efficiently process the petitions as primary reasons for the considerable delay.
The State Board therefore amended its regulations to provide petitioners with much-needed certainty regarding the timing and status of their petitions. Specific time limits now apply to the processing of petitions:
- For petitions submitted before January 1, 2015 that are not being held in abeyance, the State Board now has 120 days, 240 days, or one year from January 1, 2015 in order to dismiss or grant review of the petition. The different time periods depend on when the State Board initially received the petition. If the State Board does not make its determination by the given date, then the petition is deemed dismissed by operation of law.
- For petitions submitted after January 1, 2015 that are not being held in abeyance, the State Board now has 90 days to dismiss or grant review of the petition. If the State Board does not make its determination within 90 days, then on the 91st day the petition is deemed dismissed by operation of law.
With the new time limits in place, many petitions may be dismissed by operation of law if the State Board does not work swiftly to process the noted backlog of petitions as well as any petitions filed after January 1, 2015. Although dismissal without State Board review may not be ideal for all petitioners, it provides the administrative finality necessary to obtain review from the superior court under Water Code section 13330(b).
The amendments are codified at Title 23, California Code of Regulations, §§ 2050, 2050.5, and 2051 and are available in strikeout/underline format here.