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Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA

Citation: 11 ELR 20361
No. Nos. 80-1312, -1464, 655 F.2d 318/15 ERC 2057/(D.C. Cir., 04/22/1981)

The court upholds the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) standards governing particulate emissions and its waiver of the nitrogen oxides emissions standard for light-duty diesel vehicles. The Clean Air Act sets specific emissions standards for certain classes of vehicle pollutants and authorizes technology-based standards for other classes of vehicle pollutants. In 1980, EPA promulgated particulate emissions standards, based on the best available technology economically achievable, requiring compliance by 1985. The court first finds that EPA's statutory authority to regulate light-duty vehicle diesel particulate emissions arises under § 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act, which requires a finding of health risks, not § 202(a)(3)(A)(iii), which requires standards for heavy-duty vehicles only. Applying the arbitrary and capricious standard set out in § 307(d)(9)(A) of the Act, the court rejects the industry plaintiff's argument that because the necessary technology is not yet available the 1985 standard is too harsh. EPA reasonably predicted, based on the rapidity of recent technological progress and the industry's own predictions, that the problems of after-treatment control technology durability and efficiency can be solved before the 1985 compliance date. In addition, there is no reason to believe that technology for incinerating accumulated particulates will not be developed in time. The court also rejects the environmental plaintiff's arguments that the standards are too lax. The adoption of a single standard based on the worst-performing diesel vehicle and a 30 percent greater standard for light-duty trucks is within EPA's regulatory discretion. The court next upholds EPA's temporary waiver of the standards for oxides of nitrogen pursuant to § 202(b)(6)(B), which EPA found necessary to assure compliance with the particulate standards. EPA reasonably concluded that the nitrogen oxides waivers will not endanger the public health and that they will result in long-term air quality benefits. Finally, the court finds that EPA's hydrocarbon test procedures do not result in "double counting" of hydrocarbon and particulate emissions and thus are not fundamentally unfair to vehicle manufacturers.

A dissent would find that the record does not support EPA's prediction that the necessary technology will be available to meet the 1985 standards.

Counsel for Petitioners
David Doniger, Richard E. Ayres
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
1725 I St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 223-8210

William L. Weber Jr., Thomas L. Arnett
Legal Department
General Motors Corp., 3044 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit MI 48202
(313) 556-4009

Counsel for Respondents
Jose R. Allen, Donald W. Stever Jr., Nancy J. Marvel; Angus C. Macbeth, Acting Ass't Attorney General
Land and Natural Resources Divison
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5290

Bruce Bertelsen, Patrick O'Hare, Gerald K. Gleason
Office of the General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 755-2511

Counsel for Intervenor Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc.
Patrick M. Raher
Hogan & Hartson
815 Connectict Ave. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 331-4500

Counsel for Intervenor Volkswagon of America, Inc.
Herbert Rubin
Herz, Seld & Rubin
40 Wall St., New York NY 10005
(212) 344-0680

Counsel for Intervenor Automobiles Peugeot
Richard de C. Hinds
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 828-3000

Before: ROBB, MIKVA and GINSBURG, Circuit Judges.