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Mobil Oil Corp. v. EPA

Citation: 19 ELR 20847
No. No. 88-1788, 871 F.2d 149/29 ERC 1385/(D.C. Cir., 04/04/1989)

The court holds that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) new interpretation of the provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governing variances from the Act's land disposal prohibitions is reasonable. RCRA § 3004(h)(4) provides that wastes that qualify for this two-year national capacity variance may be land disposed only in a "facility" that meets the minimum technological standards of § 3004(o). EPA originally interpreted § 3004(h)(4) to allow variance wastes to be disposed in older landfills or impoundments not subject to § 3004(o) as long as new units at the same complex met the technological standards, reasoning that the "facility" as a whole would satisfy § 3004(o). EPA now interprets "facility" to refer to each individual disposal unit, thus prohibiting the disposal of variance wastes unless each individual landfill or impoundment satisfies § 3004(o). The court holds that this interpretation is reasonable. The court notes that EPA's interpretation is entitled to deference even though it has changed its position, since EPA acknowledged the change and explained its decision. RCRA does not define "facility." EPA's use of different definitions of the term in construing different provisions of RCRA does not weaken the Agency's position, since Congress has given no indication that a uniform definition of this term is integral to the statutory scheme. EPA's narrow interpretation of the variance provision is consistent with Congress' intent that wastes should be disposed of safely even during a variance period and with the legislative history.

Counsel for Petitioner
Karl S. Bourdeau, Harold Himmelman
Beveridge & Diamond
1333 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 828-0200

Counsel for Respondent
Daniel S. Goodman, Donald A. Carr
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2763

Before: WALD, Chief Judge, and EDWARDS and RUTH B. GINSBURG, Circuit Judges.