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Aminoil U.S.A., Inc. v. California State Water Resources Control Bd.

Citation: 12 ELR 20594
No. No. 80-5516, 674 F.2d 1227/(9th Cir., 04/02/1982)

The Ninth Circuit holds that an action for judicial review of a state agency decision concerning a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit may be neither commenced in nor removed to federal court, notwithstanding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) alleged involvement in the decision. Appellants brought a state court action for review of respondent's finding that their disposal site constituted "wetlands" and named the EPA Administrator as a real party in interest. Subsequently, the Administrator removed the action to federal district court, where it was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court rules that the state court action against the EPA Administrator was barred by sovereign immunity and that, therefore, the federal district court lacked removal jurisdiction over the Administrator. It rejects appellants' contentions that immunity is waived by § 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act or the fact that the Administrator acted beyond the scope of her authority. The court declines to infer that Congress implicitly consented to state court actions against EPA or the Administrator. Instead, the court finds that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act's allocation of dual enforcement authority to state and federal agencies indicates a congressional intent to preclude the exercise of state court jurisdiction over EPA or the Administrator. In addition, joinder of EPA in a state court action could result in substantial impediments to EPA's exercise of its supervisory responsibility over state permit programs under the Act.

Counsel for Appellee
Victor J. Gold
Nossman, Krueger & Marsh
445 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles CA 90071
(213) 628-5221

Counsel for Appellant
James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2701

James Arnold, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 N. Spring St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 688-2408

Before WALLACE and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and JAMESON,* District Judge.