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United States v. ITT Rayonier, Inc.

Citation: 10 ELR 20945
No. No. 77-3672, 627 F.2d 996/16 ERC 1091/(9th Cir., 09/15/1980)

The court finds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is collaterally estopped from raising an issue in a Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) enforcement proceeding that was already decided in favor of appellant in a state enforcement proceeding. The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) had issued a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit to appellant with a provision requiring modifications in the permit when EPA issued effluent limitations for the pulp industry. When appellant allegedly did not comply with the permit, DOE issued a compliance order. On appeal, the Washington Supreme Court found that the permit excused compliance pending judicial approval of the effluent limitations. EPA then filed its own enforcement action in federal district court, which ordered compliance with the permit. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that EPA is collaterally estopped from disputing the meaning of the permit provision. The FWPCA provides for concurrent enforcement by the state and federal government of permits issued under a single system, but the statute does not abrogate general principles of res judicata. EPA may revoke a state's permit-issuing authority or bring an independent action in federal court if the state does not enforce the permit, but it may not invoke the FWPCA to avoid a final judgment issued by a state court on an identical issue. Although EPA was not a party to the state action, collateral estoppel is applicable here because the relationship between EPA and DOE is sufficiently close and their interests are sufficiently identical to preclude relitigation of the issue already resolved in state court.

Counsel for Appellant
Thomas H. Truitt
Wald, Harkrader & Ross
1320 19th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 296-2121

Counsel for Appellee
James Moore, Ass't U.S. Attorney; John C. Merkel, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1227, Seattle WA 98104
(206) 442-7970

Before WRIGHT, SKOPIL, and SCHROEDER, Circuit Judges.