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McClellan Ecological Seepage Situation v. Weinberger

Citation: 17 ELR 20344
No. No. CIV S-86-475-RAR, 655 F. Supp. 601/25 ERC 1480/(E.D. Cal., 12/09/1986) Motion to dismiss

The court rules that Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) §§ 6001 and 7002 and Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) §§ 313(a) and 505(a) do not waive the United States' sovereign immunity from a citizen suit seeking civil penalties. The court reviews the language of RCRA § 6001, the RCRA federal facilities provision, and existing case law on the section, and holds that the only sanctions for which it waives sovereign immunity are those to enforce injunctive relief. Turning to RCRA § 7002, the citizen suit provision, the court holds that it also does not waive sovereign immunity for civil penalties. RCRA § 7002 includes the United States within its definition of "person" for purposes of RCRA's administration and jurisdiction, but that specifically refers to civil penalties under RCRA § 3008(a) and (g). These subsections incorporate RCRA's general definition of person at § 1004(15), which does not include the United States.

The court next reviews FWPCA § 313(a), the FWPCA federal facilities provision, and rules that it does not waive sovereign immunity for civil penalties. The court analyzes two alternate meanings of the subsection and concludes that both are absurd. The court finds that there is no relevant legislative history on point and concludes that analogous legislative history of the Clean Air Act is not appropriate for determining the meaning of the FWPCA.

Finally, the court holds that FWPCA § 505(a), the citizen suit provision, does not waive sovereign immunity for civil penalties. The section's definition of "person" includes the United States for jurisdictional purposes, but it refers to FWPCA § 309(d) regarding civil penalties. That section relies on FWPCA § 502(5) for its definition of "person," which does not include the United States.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Michael Axline, John B. Bonine
Pacific Northwest Resources Clinic
Univ. of Oregon Law Center, Eugene OR 94703
(503) 686-3823

Counsel for Defendants
Donald A. Ayers, U.S. Attorney
305 Fed'l Bldg., 650 Capitol Mall, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 440-2331