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Environmental Defense Fund v. Costle

Citation: 9 ELR 20716
No. No. 77-1436, 13 ERC 1867/(D.D.C., 01/24/1979) Defendants' motion for summary judgment granted

The court grants summary judgment for defendants on all counts in a suit charging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior, and Bureau of Reclamation with illegally failing to control salinity in the Colorado River. The court first determines that EPA's approval of the Colorado Basin states' water quality standards for salinity was not an abuse of discretion under §§ 303(a) and 303(b) of the Clean Water Act. The Act does not require that the standards contain separate numerical criteria for every state within the basin, and EPA had a reasoned basis for abandoning its initial position that more was required than numerical criteria for three points in the lower basin. The court also rejects plaintiff's attack on EPA's approval of the states' plan of implementation, finding that the plan satisfies the requirements of the Water Quality Act of 1965. The states' estimates of stream flow, their predictions of future development, and their assumption that 16 federal salinity control projects would ultimately be constructed all had a rational basis in light of the cumulative uncertainties involved. In addition, plaintiffs are mistaken in their assertion that the plan ignores structural and agricultural controls.The court rejects the allegation that EPA has unreasonably failed to promulgate revised water quality standards for the basin under §§ 303(c)(4)(A) and 303(c)(4)(B) of the Clean Water Act, noting that the states have not yet submitted revised standards for EPA review under that provision. The court also determines that plaintiff's request for an order directing the Agency to promulgate total maximum daily loads for salinity is both premature and unwarranted in view of the fact that the water quality standards are currently being met. The court finds that the additional claims that EPA and the other defendants violated § 102(2)(E) of the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to develop alternative salinity controls are similarly without merit because on-farm management measures are an integral part of rather than an alternative to defendants' salinity control program.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William A. Butler
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
1525 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-1484

Counsel for Defendants
Erica L. Dolgin
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4496