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Train v. Natural Resources Defense Council

Citation: 5 ELR 20264
No. No. 73-1742, 421 U.S. 60/7 ERC 1735/(U.S., 04/16/1975) Rev'd & remanded

The Supreme Court reverses a Fifth Circuit ruling that variances may be granted to individual sources under the Georgia implementation plan only if they meet the strict procedural and substantive requirements of § 110(f) of the Clean Air Act. The court holds that EPA's construction of the Act permitting treatment of individual variances from state plans as revisions under § 110(a)(3), if they will not interfere with timely attainment and subsequent maintenance of national air quality standards, rather than as postponements under § 110(f) was sufficiently reasonable to require affirmance by the court of appeals. Section 110(f) is a limited safety valve by which, under specified circumstances, exceptions to the mandatory deadlines for meeting national standards may be granted: it does not constitute the sole mechanism by which exceptions to state implementation plans may be obtained.In so deciding, the court notes the complex nature of the statutory scheme which it is interpreting and the weight which must be accorded EPA's construction of the Act as the federal agency charged with its administration. The court also finds unconvincing the arguments advanced by several courts of appeals for rejecting § 110(a)(3) as authority for granting variances, and the contention of respondents that any variance would delay attainment of national standards beyond what was previously considered the earliest practicable date and must therefore be treated as a postponement. The Act's "technology forcing" nature is also held no bar to the court's ruling since § 110(a)(3) revisions are granted by EPA only if they will not prevent the timely attainment and subsequent maintenance of national standards, which is all that the Act requires. For the Fifth Circuit's opinion, see 4 ELR 20204.

Counsel for Petitioners Train, et al.
Robert H. Bork Solicitor General
Gerald P. Norton Asst. Solicitor General
Wallace H. Johnson Asst. Attorney General
Edmund B. Clark
Larry A. Boggs
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

Counsel for Respondents Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. et al.
Richard E. Ayres
Edward L. Strohbehn, Jr.
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
917 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Stephen R. Duggan
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett
1735 Eye Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS dissents.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.