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United States v. Stauffer Chem. Co.

Citation: 12 ELR 20810
No. No. 81-5311, 684 F.2d 1174/17 ERC 1753/(6th Cir., 07/07/1982) Rev'd

Reversing the district court's denial, 11 ELR 20555, of appellant's motion to quash an administrative search warrant obtained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Sixth Circuit holds that, under § 114(a)(2) of the Clean Air Act, employees of private contractors are not representatives of the EPA Administrator authorized to conduct inspections of stationary sources. Initially, the court rules that appellee's action is barred by collateral estoppel since the same parties litigated identical issues of fact and law in a previous case, 11 ELR 20560 and 20562.

Assuming that the case is not barred by collateral estoppel, the court holds that the term "authorized representative" within the meaning of § 114(a)(2) refers to EPA officers and employees and not to employees of private contractors. The court rejects the district court's reasoning that the words "authorized representative," as used in the Senate bill and ultimately incorporated into the Act, connotates a broader group than the words "officers or employees," which was used in the House bill. The court concludes that the legislative history indicates that Congress did not attach a different meaning to the two phrases. While agreeing that "authorized representative," as used in § 114(c), refers to someone other than an EPA officer or employee, the court refuses to extend that interpretation to §§ 114(a) and 114(d). In addition, the court's interpretation harmonizes inspections of stationary sources with motor vehicle inspections and is supported by the legislative history of § 308(a) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Finally, the court rejects appellee's contention that Congress ratified its use of private contractors in inspections by failing to amend § 114(a) in 1977 and by approving Agency budget requests that included funds for the use of contractors in Clean Air Act enforcement activities.

One concurring judge would rule that the doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes the court from reaching the merits of the case, and another would rule that the doctrine, while legally applicable, should not be invoked because of the resulting injustice to appellee.

[The issues raised in this case are analyzed at 12 ELR 10018 — Ed.]

Counsel for Appellant
Charles Lettow, Eric C. Jeffrey
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 828-3000

Robert J. Walker, Leigh W. Davidson
Bass, Berry & Sims
27th Floor, First American Cir., Nashville TN 37238
(615) 244-5370

Counsel for Appellee
Judson W. Starr, Dirk D. Snel
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2810

Hal Hardin, U.S. Attorney
879 U.S. Cthse., 801 Broadway, Nashville TN 37203
(615) 251-5151

Before WEICK,* Senior Circuit Judge, JONES, Circuit Judge and SILER,** U.S. District Judge.