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New Haven, City of v. Train

ELR Citation: 7 ELR 20110
Nos. No. N-74-71, 424 F. Supp. 648/9 ERC 1553/(D. Conn., 11/02/1976)

The court sets aside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator's disapproval of the site preferred by the city of New Haven for construction of a secondary sewage treatment plant because the Administrator's decision did not conform to EPA's guidelines. The city prefers a plan which calls for construction of the facility on filled tidal marsh lands rather than on land in a redevelopment area which is one of the last locations in the city well-suited for industrial use. If the city built the sewage treatment plant at the second site, it contends, it would lose large sums in municipal tax revenues and face serious obstacles to optimum land use planning. EPA is not estopped from disapproving the city's preferred site merely because of ambiguous statements concerning the site's eligibility contained in preliminary correspondence between the two parties. Moreover, EPA has the authority under the relevant sections of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 to apply cost effectiveness analysis in determining eligibility for sewage treatment grants. The published guidelines governing such analyses provide that EPA must calculate the monetary costs of the various alternatives and then make a subjective judgment as to whether these costs are overridden by non-monetary costs attributable to environmental damage, adverse social consequences, or other factors to which dollar values are not readily assignable. Evidence from an EPA official indicated, however, that instead of undertaking such a reasoned analysis, the agency in this case automatically rejected the city's preferred site once it appeared that its costs exceeded those of the second site by more than $500,000. This action was clearly arbitrary because it was based on an unpublished rule of thumb rather than the agency's publicly promulgated guidelines. The disapproval, therefore, cannot be allowed to stand.

Counsel for Plaintiff
George C. Hastings
Robinson, Robinson & Cole
799 Main St.
Hartford CT 06103
(203) 287-0700

Thayer Baldwin
Baldwin & Lieberman
384 Whalley Ave.
New Haven CT 06511
(203) 787-0151

Counsel for Defendant
Lloyd S. Guerci
Pollution Control Section
Department of Justice
Washington DC 20530
(202) 737-8200

Marjorie Wilhelm, Asst. U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1824
New Haven CT 06508
(203) 643-8108