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United States v. Washington

Citation: 19 ELR 20755
No. No. 87-4371, 872 F.2d 874/29 ERC 1467/(9th Cir., 04/12/1989, 05/03/2089) Aff'd

The court holds that Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) § 6001 does not waive the United States' sovereign immunity from civil penalties assessed by a state agency for violations of state hazardous waste laws. The court first observes that waivers of sovereign immunity cannot be implied and must be unequivocally expressed. The court first holds that the language of RCRA § 6001 does not contain an unequivocal waiver of sovereign immunity for civil penalties assessed by an administrative agency. Although the language does make clear that the federal government must comply with state administrative standards, obtain state permits, file reports required by state law, and comply with court-ordered sanctions for violating an injunction to comply with state law, it makes no reference to penalties imposed by a state agency. RCRA's legislative history is silent on administratively imposed civil penalties and RCRA § 6001's use of the word "requirements" does not clearly waive sovereign immunity for civil penalties.

[The district court opinion appears at 18 ELR 20363.]

Counsel for Defendant-Appellant
Kathleen D. Mix, Ass't Attorney General
Temple of Justice, Olympia WA 98504
(206) 753-2550

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Jacques B. Gelin
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2762

Before Wright and Tevrizian,* JJ.