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United States v. Rivera Torres

Citation: 17 ELR 21285
No. No. 87-1186, 826 F.2d 151/26 ERC 1374/(1st Cir., 08/14/1987) Aff'd

The court holds that the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act (FRA) does not preclude the operation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) in Puerto Rico, and that the pendency of a related lawsuit in Puerto Rico courts does not affect the jurisdiction of the federal court over this case. The court first rules that the FWPCA applies in Puerto Rico. Many courts have applied the FWPCA to Puerto Rico. Congress explicitly included Puerto Rico in the FWPCA's definition of "state," and there is no evidence that Congress intended to exclude Puerto Rico from the application of the statute. Although the FRA provides that the federal water protection statutes do not apply to Puerto Rico if they are "locally inapplicable," the court holds that the FWPCA does not fall within this exception. At least one court has previously ruled that this provision of the FRA does not preclude the operation of the FWPCA in Puerto Rico, and most other federal legislation considered by the courts has been held applicable to Puerto Rico. Congress's specific inclusion of Puerto Rico in the FWPCA expressly made the statute applicable to Puerto Rico. Moreover, there is no local Puerto Rican legislation that can be said to render the FWPCA "locally inapplicable" by being incompatible with or specifically exclusive of the federal legislation.

The court holds that the pendency of a related lawsuit, but one that raises different issues, in the courts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico does not affect the ability of the courts of the United States to hear this case. Finally, the court holds that the issue of whether the government's designation of appellant's property as "wetlands" constituted a taking under the Fifth Amendment was not preserved for appeal. Even if the issue were before the court, it is not clear that a taking occurred. Appellant could have applied for a permit to fill his wetlands. Moreover, if the permit were denied, there still might be some economically viable use of the property.

[The district court opinion is published at 17 ELR 20813.]

Counsel are listed at 17 ELR 20813.

Before COFFIN, DAVIS* and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judges.