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Spitzer Great Lakes Ltd. v. EPA

Citation: 29 ELR 21117
(04/14/1999)

The court reverses a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) decision that held untimely a company's appeal of a civil penalty that an EPA administrative law judge (ALJ) assessed against it for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act. The ALJ order stated that its decision would become final within 45 days unless an appeal was taken or the EAB initiated review sua sponte. Relying on this order, the company filed its appeal 45 days following service—20 days later than required by EPA regulations.

The court holds that under EPA precedent, the EAB abused its discretion in refusing to regard the company's reliance on the misleading ALJ order as a special circumstance and in refusing to waive strict compliance with the filing deadline. EPA did not sufficiently justify its departure in this case from its practice of granting waivers in such circumstances.

A dissenting judge would affirm the EAB's decision.

Counsel for Petitioner
Terrence M. Fay
Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff
88 E. Broad St., Columbus OH 43215
(614) 223-9300

Counsel for Respondent
Eric Hostetler
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Jones, J., with Ryan, J., dissenting