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California Communities Against Toxics v. Pruitt

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 13, 2017

CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES AGAINST TOXICS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SCOTT PRUITT, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs, a number of environmental advocacy groups, bring this action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to the Clean Air Act's citizen suit provision, 42 U.S.C. § 7604(a)(2), to compel the agency to perform rulemakings mandated by the Act to protect people and the environment from pollution. Plaintiffs and the EPA have both filed for summary judgment. The EPA does not contest liability for the underlying failure to act. All that is left for the court to determine, then, is what constitutes an appropriate and reasonable timeline for the EPA to complete its mandated activity. Having considered the parties' briefs, their presentations at the motions hearing held on January 6, 2017, Defendant's supplemental declaration filed in this case and in case 16-cv-364, and Plaintiffs' response to the supplemental declaration, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will accordingly be GRANTED, Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment will be DENIED, and Plaintiff's request as to the specific remedy will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory background

         Congress amended the Clean Air Act (CAA), the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources, in 1990, creating “an aggressive regime of new control requirements to address four crucially important air pollution problems: urban smog, hazardous air pollution, acid rain, and depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.” The Hon. Henry A. Waxman, An Overview of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 21 Envtl. L. 1721, 1723 (1991). Prior to the amendments, the Act required the EPA “to set risk-based air pollution standards.” Cement Kiln Recycling Coal. v. EPA, 255 F.3d 855, 857 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The amendments abandoned the risk approach and instead required the EPA “to set the most stringent standards achievable . . . that is, standards ‘based on the maximum reduction in emissions which can be achieved by application of [the] best available control technology.'” Id. (quoting S. Rep. No. 101-228, at 133 (1989), U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News at 3385, 3518).

         The amendments set forth a two-step process for regulating hazardous air pollutants, or “HAPs”. First, the EPA establishes emission floors for each pollutant and source category, and then the agency sets stricter but “achievable” standards-taking into account “the cost of achieving such emission reduction, and any non-air quality health and environmental impacts and energy requirements.” Id. at 858; 42 U.S.C. § 7412(d)(2). With the amendments, Congress also created a specific list of 189 HAPs for the EPA to regulate, and gave the EPA the authority to revise the list. 42 U.S.C. § 7412(b).

         The EPA regulates HAPs by regulating different types of sources that emit HAPs. These sources include “major sources, ” which emit the most pollutants, “area sources, ” which are stationary sources of HAPs that emit fewer HAPs than major sources; “stationary sources, ” defined as “any building, structure, facility, or installation which emits or may emit any air pollutant;” and “new sources, ” defined as “a stationary source the construction or reconstruction of which is commenced after the Administrator first proposes regulations.” Id. § 7412(a); 42 U.S.C. § 4211. The 1990 amendments required the EPA to publish, within one year of the amendments' 1990 passage, “a list of all categories and subcategories of major sources and area sources . . . of the air pollutants listed pursuant.” Id. § 7412(c)(1). Additionally, the statute required the agency to “from time to time, but no less often than every 8 years, revise, if appropriate, in response to public comment or new information, ” the list of categories and subcategories of major sources and area sources. Id. For each list of categories and sub-categories, the EPA was required to establish emissions standards. Id. § 7412(c)(2). The statute required that within five years, the listed sources cover 90% of emissions of the 30 worst HAPs, and regulations of those sources were to be completed within ten years. Id. § 7412(c)(3).

         The amendments contained a number of additional deadlines. The EPA was to establish standards regulating emissions for 40 source categories within two years; to establish standards for 25 percent of the listed categories within four years; an additional 25 percent within seven years; and the remaining within ten years of November 1990. Id. § 7412(e)(1). For new source categories that the EPA would add pursuant to its responsibility to revise the list from time to time, the agency was to promulgate emissions standards within two years of the listing. Id. § 7412(c)(5).

         The amendments required the EPA to review and revise emissions standards at least every eight years in order to take into account developments in technology-in other words, to review the step one technology “floor”-and either promulgate new standards or determine that new standards were not necessary. Id. § 7412(d)(6). The agency was also required to, first, submit a report to Congress within six years of the amendments on the remaining risk to public health and actual health impact of HAPs, and, if Congress did not act based on the recommendations in that report, review the standards within eight years to determine whether any changes were necessary to “provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health” or to “prevent . . . an adverse environmental effect, ” subject to considerations like cost-in other words, the step two risk determination. Id. § 7412(f)(2)(A).

         The process by which the EPA promulgates new standards, or determines that new standards are not necessary, includes public notice and comment-the agency must issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, hold a public comment period, respond to significant comments, and issue a final rule explaining any changes from the proposal. 42 U.S.C. § 7607(d), (h).

         B. Plaintiffs' claim

         Plaintiffs sued the EPA administrator for failure to take mandatory, non-discretionary actions regarding the following 20 listed major source categories:[1]

Source Category

Date emissions standard promulgated

Solvent Extraction for Vegetable Oil

April 12, 2001 (66 Fed. Reg. 19, 006)

Boat Manufacturing

August 22, 2001 (66 Fed. Reg. 44, 218)

Surface Coating of Metal Coil

June 10, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 39, 794)

Cellulose Products Manufacturing

June 11, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 40, 044)

Ethylene Production

July 12, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 46, 258)

Paper and Other Web Coating

December 4, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 72, 330)

Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

January 16, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 2227)

Hydrochloric Acid Production

April 17, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 19, 076)

Reinforced Plastic Composites Production

April 21, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 19, 375)

Asphalt Processing & Roofing Manufacturing

April 29, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 22, 976)

Integrated Iron & Steel Manufacturing

May 20, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 27, 646)

Engine Test Cells/ Stands

May 27, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 28, 774)

Site Remediation

October 8, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 58, 172)

Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing

November 10, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 63, 852)

Surface Coating of Metal Cans

November 13, 2003 (68 Fed. Reg. 64, 432)

Surface Coating of Miscellaneous Metal Parts and Products

January 2, 2004 (69 Fed. Reg. 130)

Organic Liquids Distribution

February 3, 2004 (69 Fed. Reg. 5038)

Stationary Combustion Turbines

March 5, 2004 (69 Fed. Reg. 10, 512)

Surface Coating of Plastic Parts and Products

April 19, 2004 (69 Fed. Reg. 20, 968)

Surface Coating of Automobiles & Light-Duty Trucks

April 26, 2004 (69 Fed. Reg. 22, 602)

(Pls. Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 23, ¶ 2); (Def. Resp., ECF No. 31 Attachment 1, at 1). The parties agree that more than eight years have passed since the promulgation dates of emissions standards for the 20 source categories. (Pls. Stat. ¶ 3); (Def. Resp. at 1). The parties agree that the EPA has not completed the reviews required by the statute at ยง 7412(d)(6) (the regular eight-year review of standards after ...


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