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American Lung Ass'n of N.J. v. Kean

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20036
Nos. No. 87-288, 670 F. Supp. 1285/26 ERC 1699/(D.N.J., 09/24/1987) Liability

The court holds that the scheme of rulemaking and enforcement set out in New Jersey's state implementation plan (SIP) pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) for reduction of ozone constitutes a binding obligation on the New Jersey government, and New Jersey is liable for failure to implement the SIP's ozone control strategies. The court first holds that New Jersey is liable for failing to comply with the deadlines mandated by the SIP. New Jersey's intentions, the state's ozone control efforts unrelated to the SIP, and the effect in New Jersey of ozone pollution from otherstates are all irrelevant to the question of New Jersey's compliance with the federally mandated SIP. The court then holds that New Jersey is compelled to implement the specific regulatory scheme set forth in the SIP, rather than merely study the various strategies included in the scheme and only implement those that the state finds to be feasible. New Jersey manifested in the SIP an intent to commit itself. The CAA and its regulations indicate that a SIP is a set of obligations imposed on a state by federal mandate, and is not a mere contract between the state and the federal government. CAA §172, pursuant to which New Jersey filed the SIP, requires the state plan to contain enforceable measures to assure attainment, and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) regulations contain similar requirements. EPA interprets New Jersey's SIP as committing the state to its compliance scheme. New Jersey should realize that it is bound by the SIP because EPA, while reviewing the SIP for approval, instructed New Jersey to strengthen and clarify the state's commitment to the SIP's implementation measures. The court holds that New Jersey's interpretation of the SIP does not warrant any special deference, since New Jersey is the regulated party in this case. Moreover, New Jersey drafted the SIP, and any ambiguities in the plan should be construed against New Jersey.

The court holds that although the final deadline for compliance with the CAA's ozone standard has not yet arrived, the case is ripe for adjudication because the issue is New Jersey's compliance with the SIP rather than the statute itself. The court holds that New Jersey has no Tenth Amendment defense to the CAA's governance of state rulemaking. The court further holds that it has subject matter jurisdiction in this case because the CAA's citizen suit provision covers actions in which a person sues a government instrumentality for violation of a SIP emission standard or limitation, including the implementation measures in question here. Finally, the court holds that to find New Jersey liable for violating its SIP is not inequitable.

[A related case from New York is published at 18 ELR 20106.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Edward Lloyd
Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic
15 Washington St., Rm. 334, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 648-5561

Eric A. Goldstein
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
122 E. 42nd St., 45th Fl., New York NY 10168
(212) 949-0049

Counsel for Defendants
Paul H. Schneider
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, CN 112, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-8740

Ralph J. Marra, Ass't U.S. Attorney
970 Broad St., Rm. 502, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 645-2155