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EPA v. Alyeska Pipeline Servs. Co.

Citation: 17 ELR 20650
No. No. A86-583, 25 ERC 1416/(D. Alaska, 12/09/1986)

The court holds that Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) § 11(c) authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue administrative subpoenas to determine whether an operator (Alyeska) has discharged polychlorinated biphenyls from its Trans-Alaska Pipeline oil loading facility at Valdez. Although the EPA provided little basis for its suspicion that Alyeska violated TSCA, the court holds that its appropriately limited judicial scrutiny warrants approval of the TSCA subpoenas. The court thus rejects Alyeska's claim that EPA is circumventing the lawby using TSCA to obtain testimony unavailable under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Applying a tripartite test to determine the validity of EPA's subpoenas, the court first rules that Congress did authorize the issuance of administrative subpoenas to determine whether a TSCA violation has occurred. Next, the court holds that EPA need not comply with the procedural requirements for bringing an action under TSCA § 9 before it studies what risks exist and which TSCA actions should be taken. Finally, the court holds that the subpoenas need not be proven relevant to specific TSCA violations, only that they are relevant to a lawful purpose under TSCA. Because EPA, and not Alyeska, has the authority to determine whether specific chemical discharges might present a TSCA § 6 imminent hazard, the court holds that EPA's requests for information about chemical substances or mixtures and about oil spills were generally relevant to its lawful investigation of Alyeska's Valdez operation. Requests for information concerning discharges at sea or in foreign countries, insufficiently related to EPA's specific investigation of Alyeska's Valdez terminal, however, are not authorized by TSCA.

Counsel for Petitioner
Michael Walker
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St. SW, Washington DC 20024
(202) 475-8040

Counsel for Respondent
Clifford Groh
Groh, Eggers & Price
550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1250, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 272-6474