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Sierra Club v. EPA

Citation: 33 ELR 20144
No. No. 02-11188, (11th Cir., 12/24/2002)

The court holds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) approval of Georgia's state implementation plan (SIP) mooted environmental groups' claims that Atlanta's motor vehicle emissions budget (MVEB) was not adequate for transportation conformity. In 2001, Georgia submitted to EPA a proposed SIP that would meet an attainment deadline of 2004, and requested an extension of its 1999 deadline as a serious nonattainment area. EPA informed Georgia that it found the proposed MVEB in the SIP adequate for transportation conformity purposes based on the 2004 attainment date in Georgia's SIP because that deadline would inevitably apply to the SIP, whether or not EPA granted Georgia's request for an extension. Either Georgia would be granted an extension under EPA's extension policy, or Georgia would be bumped up to severe status, which would delay attainment until 2005. In 2002, environmental groups brought this action challenging EPA's adequacy determination for the MVEB. Subsequently, EPA approved Georgia's SIP. The environmental groups' challenge to the adequacy of the MVEB is moot because EPA's approval of Georgia's SIP supersedes its MVEB adequacy determination. The groups incorrectly seek to have the court review the MVEB, either alone or as a component of the SIP, but the court's jurisdiction is limited to EPA's final action that determined the MVEB was adequate for transportation conformity purposes. The only effect of an adequacy determination is to allow transportation planning to be based upon conformity to the MVEB while the submitted SIP is reviewed. Because the SIP has been approved, transportation conformity decisions must be based upon the new SIP, not the stand-alone MVEB. Once EPA approved Georgia's SIP, the earlier MVEB adequacy determination became moot. Additionally, the governing statutory and regulatory regime forecloses any further reliance on the MVEB as a result of EPA's adequacy determination. Finally, this is not a case in which a defendant attempts to render an action moot by voluntarily ceasing the challenged conduct, a government agency facing a challenge to a statute attempts to amend the statute in order to moot the challenge, or the same agency action persists across discrete agency orders. Thus, the environmental groups' claim is moot.

Counsel for Petitioners
Stuart Henry
Henry, Lowerre, Johnson, Hess & Frederick
202 W. 17th St., Austin TX 78701
(512) 479-8125

Counsel for Respondents
Wells D. Burgess
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000