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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Train

Citation: 6 ELR 20588
No. No. 2153-73, 8 ERC 2120/(D.D.C., 06/09/1976) Settlement agreement

The court approves a settlement agreement in four consolidated cases challenging regulation of toxic water pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Civil Action No. 2153-73 sought to compel EPA to expand the list of toxic pollutants promulgated under § 307 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA); Nos. 75-172 and 75-1698 would require EPA to promulgate regulations for the toxic pollutants already listed under § 307; No. 75-1267 sought to force EPA to promulgate final pretreatment standards for introduction of toxic pollutants into publicly-owned sewage treatment plants.

The agreement has been modified to the court's satisfaction so as to reduce the continuing judicial supervisory role to a manageable level. The court rejects as baseless the fear expressed by intervenors that they will not be able to challenge, under §§ 301, 304, 306 and 307 of the FWPCA, regulations to be promulgated pursuant to the agreement Judicial approval of the settlement agreement, possible solely because of the breadth of EPA's discretion under these sections, creates no precedent as to the legality of specific regulations which may be forthcoming. Nor will intervenors be foreclosed from participating in EPA's decisions as to which pollutants and industries will be regulated, for the agreement binds EPA only to initiate rulemaking proceedings respecting the substances and industries in the appendices. Finally, the settlement is not invalid as beyond the scope of the controversy framed by the complaints in these cases.

The settlement agreement contemplates a staged abatement program by EPA, designed to bring 65 listed toxic chemicals and categories of chemicals discharged by 21 specific industrial categories under full control by 1983. To this end, EPA agrees by July 1976 to initiate a three-year, $20 million program of contract studies of the listed pollutants' ecological and health effects, of the present and developing state of control technology for the specified industries, and of the economic impact on the industries of using the best available technology to control their pollutant discharges. By mid-1977, EPA bill begin preparing effluent limitations and performance standards for the pollutants studied. By the beginning of 1978, it will publish the first of these as proposed limitations and standards. By mid-1978, EPA must begin promulgating final limitations and standards, and this process must be finished by the end of 1979. Also by mid-1978, the Agency must publish water quality criteria (specifications of maximum concentrations of pollutants in waterways) that reflect the latest scientific data on the health and ecological effects of the listed pollutants. If necessary, the effluent limitations and performance standards will be modified to meet these criteria. The agreement also binds EPA to set pretreatment standards for industries that discharge wastes into publicly-owned sewage systems, to issue stringent effluent limitations for new industrial plants, and to regulate six specific highly toxic chemicals under § 307(a) of the FWPCA.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Khristine Hall
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
917 15th St., NW
Washington DC 20005
(202) 737-5000

Dr. Robert Harris
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
1525 18th St., NW
Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-1484

David D. Comey, Director of Environmental Research
Business and Professional People for the Public Interest
129 North Dearborn St.
Chicago IL 60606
(312) 641-5570

Louis R. Proyect
Gifford, Woody, Carter & Hays
One Wall St.
New York NY 10005
(212) 349-7400

Sherwood L. Levin
188 West Randolph St.
Chicago IL 60601
(312) 782-8774

Counsel for Defendants
William A. Frick, General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St., SW
Washington DC 20460
(202) 755-2511

Thomas A. Pursely, III
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice
9th & Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2808

Counsel for Intervening Defendant National Coal Association
Robert F. Stauffer, General Counsel
National Coal Association
1130 17th St., NW
Washington DC 20036
(202) NA8-4322