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Maine v. Department of the Navy

Citation: 19 ELR 20614
No. No. 86-0211-P, 702 F. Supp. 322/28 ERC 1817/(D. Me., 11/23/1988)

The court holds that Resource conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) § 6001 waives the federal government's sovereign immunity from state actions for civil penalties under state law, and from state hazardous waste fees. The court first holds that RCRA § 6001 waives the federal government's sovereign immunity from state actions for civil penalties under state law. RCRA § 6001 waives sovereign immunity from all "requirements," and civil penalties are requirements within the ordinary meaning of the term. In other statutes using similar language to waive sovereign immunity, Congress has explicitly absolved federal employees from liability for civil penalties; such absolution would not be necessary unless civil penalties were included in the general waiver provision. Similarly, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act's exclusion of certain civil penalties from the waiver suggests that without the exclusion "requirements" includes civil penalties. The court also holds that RCRA § 6001's waiver of sovereign immunity includes annual permit fees and generator fees based on the volume and type of waste generated. Annual fees are prerequisites to obtaining a permit and permit requirements are specifically mentioned in § 6001 as an illustration of requirements to which federal facilities are subject. Similarly, generator fees under state law are used to control and abate hazardous materials, and thus are "requirements respecting control and abatement" within RCRA § 6001.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Marcia J. Cleveland, Ass't Attorney General
State House, Station No. 6, Augusta ME 04333
(207) 289-3661

Counsel for Defendants
David R. Collins, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Federal Courthouse, Rm. 104, 156 Federal St., Portland ME 04101
(207) 780-3258

Mary E. Ward
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2000