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Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air v. Pennsylvania

Citation: 12 ELR 20191
No. Nos. 76-2068, 77-619, 533 F. Supp. 869/17 ERC 1125/(E.D. Pa., 01/22/1982) Motion for civil contempt upheld, injunction issued

The court finds the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and two named agencies in civil contempt for failure to comply with a consent decree requiring implementation of an automobile inspection and maintenance (I/M) program for the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas. Subsequent to entry of the consent decree, the legislature enacted H.B. 456, a statute prohibiting the use of public funds for the establishment of the I/M program. The court refuses to grant defendants' motion for a stay and modification of the consent decree. While H.B. 456 constitutes a changed circumstance, a party may not obtain a modification of a consent decree because of changed circumstances of its own creation. The court next rules that while the Unired States may take contemporaneous administrative action to enforce the state implementation plan (SIP) containing the I/M program, the court retains jurisdiction over the consent decree and need not await action by the Environmental Protection Agency before enforcing the decree. Turning to plaintiffs' claims, the court holds that although H.B. 456 interferes with a federal judicial decree, it is not unconstitutional because of the Tenth Amendment limits on the federal court's authority to interfere with appropriation decisions of a state legislature. In addition, the statute does not conflict with the Clean Air Act because that act does not require states to establish and fund I/M programs. However, the court finds the commonwealth in civil contempt for failure to comply with the consent decree. Not only do defendants have knowledge of the decree, but they have the ability to comply. As a remedy, pursuant to its broad discretion in equity and in order to effectuate the purposes of the consent decree and Clean Air Act without interfering with state sovereignty, the court enjoins the United States Secretary of Transportation from approving any projects or awarding any federal grants to Pennsylvania for highway projects in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas other than mass transit, safety, or air pollution control projects.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jerome Balter, James Lenard
Public Interest Law Center
1315 Walnut St., Philadelphia PA 19107
(215) 735-7200

James Sheehan, Ass't U.S. Attorney
3310 U.S. Cthse., 601 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 597-2556

Counsel for Defendants
John M. Hrubovcak, Ass't Attorney General
Office of Chief Counsel
Department of Transportation, Transportation & Safety Bldg., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-2330

Kenneth Gelburd, Deputy Attorney General
Department of Environmental Resources
Fulton Bldg., P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-2814