Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

United States v. Seymour Recycling Corp.

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20245
Nos. IP-80-457-C, 679 F. Supp. 859/26 ERC 1559/(S.D. Ind., 07/14/1987) Judicial review standard

The court rules that judicial review of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) remedy selection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) is based on the administrative record and applies the arbitrary and capricious standard, in accordance with CERCLA §113(j). This is required by §113(j)'s plain language and well-established rules of administrative law involving judicial review of informal agency decisions. CERCLA §113(j), added by the 1986 amendments to CERCLA, applies to this case because EPA's remedy decision has not yet been made, and the 1986 amendments became effective immediately unless otherwise provided. Moreover, a court generally applies the law in effect at the time it renders its decision, and there is no statutory or legislative directive to the contrary here, nor would manifest injustice result. Although the court's case management order, 14 ELR 20855, and the government's past statements may have led the defendants to expect a trial on the remedy selection, these do not give rise to a "matured or unconditional right" that would form the basis of a manifest injustice.

The court holds that §113(j) applies to actions under CERCLA §106, such as this one, since by its own terms it applies to any judicial action. Section 121(a) authorizes remedy selection to lead to either government implementation under §104 or directed private implementation under §106. Section 117 provides for public participation in remedy selection, which would not be meaningful if judicial review were by trial de novo.

Section 113(j) applies to remedies ordered by a court under §106. Although §113(j)(1) generally limits judicial review to the administrative record in cases of response action "taken or ordered by the President," and this does not precisely describe a government motion for a judicial order under §106, there is no legislative history to suggest that such judicial orders are excluded from §113(j)(1). Other language in §113(j) makes no such distinction, and the provision must be interpreted consistently with §121 and the general statutory scheme of CERCLA.

The court holds that due process requirements are satisfied by judicial review on the administrative record, since the defendants can meaningfully comment during EPA's decisionmaking process. The court will separately provide a de novo review of the defendants' liability. Moreover, in reviewing EPA's remedy selection, the court will make a "searching and careful" review to determine whether EPA has considered all relevant factors and reached a rational decision, the defendants will not be required to implement the remedy until the court's review is complete, and the court retains discretion to decide what particular parties will do to implement the remedy. Judicial review on the administrative record is efficient, fast, and nationally consistent, compared to the alternative of a de novo trial.

[Related decisions in this case appear at 13 ELR 20192, 20195; and 14 ELR 20855.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles Goodloe, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Federal Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio, Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 269-6333

Counsel for Defendant
Frank Deveau
Sommer & Barnard
1100 Merchant's Bank Bldg., Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 639-5400