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Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA

Citation: 19 ELR 20344
No. Nos. 83-2011, -2951, 695 F. Supp. 48/28 ERC 1719/(D.D.C., 09/14/1988)

The court holds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have a nondiscretionary duty under Clean Air Act § 112 to propose an emission standard for all remaining sources of benzene emissions, but must either propose a standard or issue a final determination as to why a specific source will not be regulated. The court initially rejects EPA's argument that the Agency has satisfied the requirement in § 112 that it prescribe "an emission standard" for listed pollutants by promulgating standards for fugitive benzene emissions, one of a number of benzene emissions source categories. Taken outof context, this interpretation of § 112(b)(1)(B) could be read to mean that EPA need only propose a single emission standard for each hazardous pollutant in order to comply with the Clean Air Act, which, the court holds, is unreasonable. EPA's interpretation would undercut the Act's goal to improve the nation's air quality, since fugitive benzene emissions account for only 14 percent of benzene emissions from stationary sources. The court then holds that § 112(b)(1)(B) does not require EPA to propose an emission standard for every source category of benzene emissions, but the Agency does have a nondiscretionary duty to either propose a standard or issue a final determination as to why a source will not be regulated. The court holds that EPA must propose the standards or issue its determinations within 180 days of listing benzene as a hazardous pollutant. Congress was aware of the relatively short period of time it was allowing EPA when it enacted § 112(b)(1)(B), and the legislative history indicates that the short deadline was intentional. the court holds, however, that the 180-day deadline in § 112 does not apply to EPA's duty under § 202(a)(6) to evaluate onboard hydrocarbon controls for motor vehicles. The dangers associated with benzene emissions were not the sole or primary impetus behind EPA's decision to require onboard controls, and § 202(a)(6) does not contain a specific compliance deadline. That action taken under § 202(a)(6) will have some effect on the overall level of benzene emissions does not warrant imposition of the 180-day deadline in § 112.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Angus Macbeth
Sidley & Austin
1722 1 St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 429-4000

David D. Doniger
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
1350 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 300, Washington DC 20005
(202) 783-7800

Counsel for Defendants
Stephen L. Samuels
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3179

Earl Salo
Office of General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St. SW, Washington DC 20460
(202) 475-8040