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United States v. Puerto Rico

Citation: 14 ELR 20003
No. No. 83-1046, 721 F.2d 832/20 ERC 1189/(1st Cir., 10/11/1983)

The court rules that a state denial of water quality compliance certification under § 401 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) for a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit for Navy "discharges" of ordnance into Puerto Rico's coastal waters is reviewable in federal district court. The court holds that § 313(a) of the FWPCA, which mandates federal compliance with the substantive and procedural requirements of state water pollution control law, does not override a provision of the Judiciary Code, 28 U.S.C. § 1345, which gives the district court jurisdiction over actions filed by the United States unless Congress has dictated another result. The legislative history of § 313 and a similar provision in the Clean Air Act indicate no congressional intent to deprive the district courts of the original jurisdiction granted in 28 U.S.C. § 1345. The court also finds that there is no irreconcilable conflict between the state law compliance requirements of FWPCA § 313(a) and the jurisdictional requirement of the Judiciary Code, making it unnecessary to give precedence to the more recent provisions of § 313. The court finds that the federal courts are capable of enforcing the strictures of state law against federal agencies. That Congress envisioned removal to federal court of FWPCA actions against federal agencies originally brought in state court supports this conclusion. The court concludes that recognizing federal district court jurisdiction over the Navy's challenge to Puerto Rico's denial of water quality certification of the proposed NPDES permit is the only reasonable reconciliation of the Judiciary Code and § 313(a) of the FWPCA.

Counsel for Petitioners
Marvin B. Durning
Durning, Webster & Lonnquist
Suite 620, 1411 4th Ave. Bldg., Seattle WA 98101
(206) 223-0344

Hector Reichard De Cardona, Secretary of Justice; Eduardo L. Buso
Department of Justice, P.O. Box 192, San Juan PR 00902
(809) 721-2900

Gerardo A. Carlo
Carlo & Dubos
P.O. Box 1470, San Juan PR 00903
(809) 723-0113

Counsel for Respondent
Raymond W. Mushal
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4293

Raymond L. Acosta, U.S. Attorney; Gary H. Montilla
Fed. Off. Bldg., Rm. 101, Carlos E. Chardon St., Hato Rey PR 09918
(809) 753-4656

Richard M. Cornelius
Office of the General Counsel
Department of the Navy, Washington DC 20350
(202) 692-6540

Counsel for Amici Curiae
Francis X. Bellotti, Attorney General; Stephen M. Leonard
One Ashburton Place, Boston MA 02108
(617) 727-3688

Joseph I. Lieberman, Attorney General; Richard F. Webb
Capitol Annex, 30 Trinity St., Hartford CT 06115
(203) 566-2026