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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Costle

Citation: 8 ELR 20028
No. No. 75-2056, 568 F.2d 1369/10 ERC 2025/(D.C. Cir., 11/16/1977) Aff'd

The court affirms a district court judgment that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks authority to exempt certain agricultural, silvicultural, and storm sewer runoff point sources from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements of § 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (FWPCA). The statutory language and legislative history make clear that Congress intended all point source discharges without permits to be unlawful, and dicta in recent Supreme Court opinions in FWPCA cases reinforce this view. The court rejects EPA's argument that this holding would put an extraordinary burden on the agency so as to make implementation of the statutory requirements infeasible. The existence of uniform national effluent limitations, which the agency contends would be difficult to set for agricultural, silvicultural, and storm runoff point sources, is not a necessary precondition for issuing NPDES permits for those sources. Nor is it necessary for the agency to incorporate limitations into permits on a case-by-case basis in terms of a numerical effluent standard; EPA can instead simply impose conditions in the permit designed to reduce discharges to acceptable levels. The agency has also overestimated the number of permits it will have to process since it has the option under § 402 of issuing areawide or general permits.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
J. G. Speth
Natural Resources Defense Council
917 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 737-5000

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
National Forest Products Ass'n et al.
Irvin B. Nathan, Burton J. Mallinger
Arnold & Porter
1229 19th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 872-6700

Charles W. Bills, James R. Murphy
Cross, Murphy & Smith
1128 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 393-8668

Christopher D. Williams, Kenneth Balcomb, Robert L. McCarty
McCarty & Noone
1225 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 223-6680

Counsel for Federal Defendants-Appellants
Edmund B. Clark, Lloyd S. Guerci, Larry A. Boggs
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 737-8200

G. William Frick, General Counsel; Pamela P. Quinn
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 755-2500

Counsel for Amici Curiae State of Washington, Iron and Steel Institute, and State of Texas
Theodore O. Tovre, Ass't Attorney General
Temple of Justice, Olympia WA 98504
(206) 753-2550

Richard E. Schwartz
Collier, Shannon, Rill & Edwards
Suite 701, 1666 K St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 785-1777

John L. Hill, Attorney General; David M. Kendall, First Ass't Attorney General
Supreme Court Building, Austin TX 78701
(512) 475-4643

Before: BAZELON, Chief Judge, LEVENTHAL and MacKINNON, Circuit Judges.