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Boliden Metech, Inc. v. United States

Citation: 19 ELR 20326
No. No. 88-0081 L, 695 F. Supp. 77/(D.R.I., 09/20/1988)

The court rules that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) implicitly authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain ex parte administrative search warrants. The court first rules that TSCA authorizes EPA to obtain search warrants to fulfill its inspection duties under the Act. TSCA §11 authorizes EPA to enter and inspect facilities where chemicals are manufactured, processed, and stored. While §11 does not spell out the steps EPA must take if entry is denied, EPA is implicitly authorized to use reasonable means, such as an administrative search warrant, to carry out the inspections. TSCA's provisions authorizing the government to file an enforcement action in district court when entry is refused are not the exclusive remedy for failure to permit entry under §11. It is not necessary for TSCA to explicitly state the EPA may seek administrative warrants, since the use of warrants is a traditional companion to an agency's inspection authority. The court rules that an ex parte warrant is proper under TSCA. Requiring EPA to engage in an adversary proceeding to gain access after entry has been denied would deny EPA the element of surprise. Further, a business subject to an EPA search may challenge the grounds for the warrant at any subsequent administrative proceeding, which is then subject to judicial review. The ex parte warrant procedures adequately protect the privacy interests of target companies.

The court declines on equitable grounds to exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims seeking to suppress evidence obtained under the warrant in a pending administrative proceeding. Plaintiff can raise its suppression arguments in the administrative proceeding and may seek judicial review in the court of appeals.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John G. Coffey Jr.
Coffey, McGovern & Noel
20 Washington Pl., Providence RI 02903
(401) 274-1144

Counsel for Defendants
Lincoln Almond, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1401, Providence RI 02901
(401) 528-5477

Ruth McQuade
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3907