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National Association of Home Builders v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

December 30, 2009

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the motion to transfer venue filed by the defendants, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and the Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps"). The plaintiffs, trade associations representing businesses in the housing and construction fields, seek judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., of the defendants' designation of two reaches of the Santa Cruz River in Arizona as "traditional navigable waters" under the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq. The defendants move to transfer venue to the District of Arizona. After weighing the considerations of convenience and the interests of justice, the court denies the defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 23, 2009, the plaintiffs commenced this action, challenging the decision of the defendants*fn1 to classify two reaches of the Santa Cruz River*fn2 as "traditional navigable waters," a term of art under the CWA. Compl. ¶ 2. These reaches are located in Arizona. Id. ¶ 1.

The EPA's decision to designate these reaches as traditional navigable waters was communicated in a letter written by the EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water, Benjamin Grumbles, on December 3, 2008. Id. ¶ 3, Ex. 1. The letter was signed at the EPA's headquarters in the District of Columbia. Defs.' Mot. at 9. In this letter, Grumbles affirmed an earlier determination made by the Corps' Los Angeles District that the reaches qualified as traditional navigable waters. Compl. ¶ 4.

In their first claim for relief, the plaintiffs allege that the Corps and the EPA violated the APA's procedural requirements in making this determination. Id. ¶¶ 58-66. More specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the agencies failed to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking and give interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations, in violation of 5 U.S.C. §§ 553(b)-(c) and 706(2)(D). Id. The plaintiffs' second claim concerns the substance of the determinations. Id. ¶¶ 67-79. The plaintiffs contend that the determinations by the agencies in question were arbitrary and capricious, were unsupported by sufficient evidence and exceeded the agencies' statutory authority. Id.

On April 10, 2009, the defendants filed a motion to transfer this case to the District of Arizona pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). See generally Defs.' Mot. The court now turns to the applicable legal standard and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e) and Transfer Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)

When federal jurisdiction is not premised solely on diversity and a defendant is an officer, employee, or agency of the United States, venue is proper in: any judicial district in which (1) a defendant in the action resides, (2) a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the ...


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