Friday, September 19, 2008

National Resources Defense Council v. U.S. EPA

Sep 18: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 07-55183, 07-55261. Plaintiffs-Appellees, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. (collectively, NRDC), sued Defendants-Appellants, U.S. EPA and its administrator (collectively, EPA), under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), seeking to compel EPA to promulgate effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) and new source performance standards (NSPSs) for storm water pollution discharges caused by the construction and development industry (construction industry).

The States of Connecticut and New York, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (collectively, state-intervenors) intervened on behalf of NRDC; the National Association of Home Builders and Associated General Contractors of America (collectively, industry-intervenors) intervened on behalf of the EPA.

The district court exercised its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act’s citizen-suit provision and denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss; granted Plaintiffs partial summary judgment on their claim that the CWA requires the EPA to issue ELGs and NSPSs for the construction industry; and issued a permanent injunction compelling EPA to do so. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court decision.

The Appeals Court ruled in part saying, "Despite our conclusion that the EPA had a nondiscretionary duty to promulgate ELGs and NSPSs in this case, we also must consider whether the EPA properly avoided this duty when it removed the construction industry from its plans published pursuant to § 304(m). Nothing in the CWA expressly grants the EPA the authority to remove a point-source category from a § 304(m) plan. . . " The Appeals Court said, first, ". . .once a category is identified under subsection B, the promulgation of guidelines 'shall be no later than . . . 3 years after the publication of the plan.' This timeline effectuates Congress’ stated desire to force the EPA to more rapidly promulgate ELGs and NSPSs. If the EPA had the authority to delist point-source categories at its whim, however, this deadline would be rendered meaningless as the EPA could delist any point-source category to avoid the deadline set forth in § 304(m)(1)(c)."

Secondly, the Appeals Court said, "Congress determined that by the time a point-source category is listed in a § 304(m) plan, the EPA must have already engaged in a review process to consider whether the category should be listed. It follows logically that the three-year delay provided for in § 304(m)(1)(c) is not to decide whether to list a point-source category, but to allow the EPA to consider what the substance of the ELGs and NSPSs should be."

NRDC issued a release on the decision and said it will help to ensure that construction site pollution won’t cause beach closings, waterborne disease, flooding, fish kills and contaminated drinking water supplies. Melanie Shepherdson, staff attorney at NRDC said, “This decision will go along way towards protecting America’s streams and rivers from the construction and development industry. The court made it very clear that EPA can’t just shirk its responsibilities to reign in pollution from this industry.”

Access the complete opinion (
click here). Access the release from NRDC (click here).

Fund For Animals v. Kempthorne (Interior Department)

Sep 18: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 05-2603. In this case the Plaintiffs appeal from a decision of the district court that granted defendants, Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs' claims challenging the defendants' Public Resource Depredation Order, 50 C.F.R. § 21.48, as a violation of treaty obligations and Federal statutes. The Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the district court.

The case involves double-crested cormorants (cormorants). The birds are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq., but their treatment is regulated by international treaties to which the United States is a party, and by Federal statutes and regulations. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been delegated primary responsibility for regulating migratory birds, including cormorants. [See Migratory Bird Permits; Regulations for Double-Crested Cormorant Management, 68 Fed. Reg. 12,653, 12,653 (Mar. 17, 2003)].

The plaintiffs brought this action to challenge the Depredation Order, which, they allege, violates the relevant treaties and statutes by "authoriz[ing] state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian Tribes, and U.S. Department of Agriculture . . . employees to kill an unlimited number of federally protected double-crested cormorants in New York and twenty-four other States, without any restrictions on time of year or location of the killings, without any advance notice to the FWS, and without any showing of specific, localized harm caused by the cormorants." The Depredation Order was issued because When migratory birds converge in large numbers, they may consume large quantities of local plants, fish, or other species. In doing so, they may harm commercial activity dependent on those species.

In its decision the Appeals Court ruled that "the Depredation Order does not violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act the MBTA," and it accepts the agency's view regarding compliance with the Mexico Convention; "the Depredation Order represents one rational response to the problem of cormorant depredation based on evidence available to the FWS, and the FWS has explained its reasons for choosing one rational response over others"; and the "FWS did not violate NEPA by omitting site-specific analyses in this case."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).