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United States v. Ford Motor Co.

Citation: 17 ELR 20655
No. No. 85-1945, 814 F.2d 1099/25 ERC 1745/(6th Cir., 03/27/1987)

The court holds that a state court consent order between the Ford Motor Company and several state air pollution control agencies, which purports to vacate Michigan's state implementation plan (SIP) for ozone previously approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), does not preclude the federal government from enforcing the SIP under § 113(b) of the Clean Air Act. The court holds that the state consent decree is a proposed SIP revision and is ineffective until approved by EPA. The original SIP, meanwhile, remains effective and enforceable. The court holds that Ford, the defendant in a federal action under § 113, cannot interpose the state court decree as a bar to government enforcement under the recognized ground that the SIP is invalid on procedural grounds, i.e., that it was never valid in the first instance. The court holds that the state court decree purports to invalidate the SIP on technical grounds of economic infeasibility, thereby distinguishing Sierra Club v. Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp., 13 ELR 20817. The court further holds that the state decree is not a valid collateral estoppel bar under the traditional principles of the doctrine or the Federal Full Faith and Credit Statute. The court holds that enforcement of the SIP where compliance is economically or technologically infeasible does not deprive Ford of a property interest without a meaningful right to be heard, since the Clean Air Act directs that pollution sources either meet SIP standards or shut down. The court notes, however, that infeasibility coupled with good faith efforts to comply may be a mitigating factor against the imposition of monetary penalties in an enforcement action.

[The federal government's brief as appellant is digested at ELR PEND. LIT. 65909.]

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
William Lazarus
Land and Natural Resources Division
Appellate Section
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4168

Counsel for Defendant-Appellee
Thomas H. Truitt
Piper & Marbury
888 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 785-8150

Before: ENGEL and JONES, Circuit Judges; and EDWARDS, Senior Circuit Judge.