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New York Pub. Interest Research Group v. Whitman

Citation: 33 ELR 20032
No. Nos. 02-cv-337 (ESH), -338 (ESH), 214 F. Supp. 2d 1/(D.D.C., 08/22/2002)

The court holds that it lacked power under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to grant an environmental group's request to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose information addressing EPA's nationwide administration of CAA petitions. The group submitted petitions under the CAA to EPA. When EPA failed to respond to the petitions within the 60-day time limit, the group brought citizen suits seeking to compel EPA to respond to the petitions, and later, seeking to discover information on EPA's delayed response to similar petitions. The court first holds that it lacks power under the CAA to grant equitable relief beyond the specific petitions before it. The discovery the group seeks is not related to granting or denying the specific petitions that the group filed with EPA. Rather, the group desires broad programmatic relief to remedy what it perceives to be flaws in EPA's system for responding to petitions. Both the structure of the CAA and its legislative history indicate that the U.S. Congress intended that the available remedies were limited to those expressly provided for in the Act. Under the CAA, the district court has jurisdiction to compel EPA to perform purely ministerial acts or duties, not to order EPA to make particular judgmental decisions. This grant of authority under the CAA indicates that a court's powers are limited to resolving on a case-by-case basis the individual petitions before it. The group, therefore, is not entitled to discovery.

[Counsel not available.]

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