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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Costle

Citation: 8 ELR 20881
No. Nos. 2153-73 et al., 12 ERC 1181/(D.D.C., 08/16/1978) Attorneys fees awarded

Following litigation resulting in a settlement agreement requiring the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate industry-by-industry limitations on discharges of toxic substances into navigable waters, counsel for the plaintiff environmental groups and industrial intervenors moved for attorney fees and costs under § 505 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The court grants the motions of plaintiffs in amounts less than those requested and denies the motions of intervenors. Because the hourly rates sought by plaintiffs are within the $40 to $80 per hour range which is typical of fees charged in the locale, the court finds the requested rates reasonable. Fees claimed by plaintiffs for opposing motions to intervene are denied, however, because such oppositions is not the kind of enforcement activitiy which § 505 was designed to encourage and because the motions in opposition appear to have been an unnecessary supplement to the motions in opposition filed by the federal defendants. The government's assertion that hours allegedly spent by plaintiffs in preparation of various motions are excessive is rejected with the exception of one motion with respect to which the hours claimed are reduced by one third.Hours spent on telephone calls and conferences are reduced by one half. Certain claims by two attorneys for which there is no direct supporting documentation are found reasonable and sustained. Time spent in applying for fees and costs is compensable, but at only half the rate otherwise allowed.The court notes that two of the claimants have left private practice for government employment, making an award of fees to their organizational clients more appropriate than an award to the individuals. With respect to the claims of the industrial intervenors, the court finds that where intervention is on behalf of the defendants, fees may be recovered only to deter frivolous or harassing suits. Since the instant case was brought in good faith and yielded significant results, such an award is not allowed and the motions are denied.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ronald J. Wilson
810 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 628-3160

Counsel for Defendants
Ridgway M. Hall, Jr.
Office of the General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 755-2511

Michael P. Carlton
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2834

Counsel for Industrial Intervenors
Robert C. Bernard
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 223-2151