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Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA

Citation: 5 ELR 20323
No. No. 72-2233, 512 F.2d 1351/7 ERC 2041/(D.C. Cir., 05/19/1975)

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declines to award attorneys' fees to public interest plaintiffs in a suit which resulted in EPA's promulgating regulations governing the use of lead additives in gasoline pursuant to § 211 of the Clean Air Act. Section 304(d) of the statute authorizes an award of attorneys' fees whether the court determines that such an award is appropriate. While this authorization applies to suits brought in federal district court under § 304(a) alleging a failure by the Administrator to perform a non-discretionary duty, it does not reach suits, such as this one, which are initiated in the court of appeals under § 307(b) and seek review of specific actions of the Administrator. In so deciding, the court notes its failure to follow a First Circuit ruling that § 304(a) authorizes attorney's fees awards in both § 304 and § 307 suits, but asserts that such a reading of the statute is not justified since the two sections provide independent mechanisms for judicial review. The court points out that the purpose of the § 304(d) authorization was to encourage meritorious litigation such as this which seeks to further the goals of the Act, but declines to bend the statutory framework so as to award fees in this instance, since the remedy for the anomalies which this case suggests should more properly come from Congress.

In dissent, Judge Wright argues that an award of fees should be granted in this case since the suit could properly have been brought under either § 307 or § 304. The congressional purpose in allowing fees under § 304 should not be frustrated where an action, cognizable under § 304, is brought under § 307 instead.

Counsel for Petitioners
David Schoehbrod
Natural Resources Defense Coucil, Inc.
15 West 44th Street
New York, N.Y. 10036

Counsel for Respondent
Edmund B. Clark
Edward J. Shawaker
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530