Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Sierra Club v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20470
Nos. No. 81-3157, 18 ERC 1565/(D.D.C., 09/17/1982)

The court upholds a revision to a Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) regulation governing approval of state regulatory programs changing the definition of "consistent with" from "no less stringent than" to "no less effective than" the federal regulations. Initially, the court notes that since the revision does not apply to enforcement and procedural components of state programs it effectively moots plaintiff's claim that the amendment violates §§518 and 521 of SMCRA, which state that in these areas state programs must virtually copy the federal program.

Applying the arbitrary and capricious standard of review and noting that this standard requires deference to the agency, the court rules that the revised regulation is in harmony with the statute. Since the agency has a reasoned basis for the change, the new regulation is not arbitrary or irrational. The effectiveness test is in harmony with the requirement that the state programs be "consistent with" federal regulations because it fosters the Act's goal of a nationwide surface mining control program developed and implemented with state assistance. The court rejects plaintiff's argument that the legislative history requires the agency to use the same "no less stringent than" test prescribed for determining whether state surface mining statutes are "in accordance with" the federal statute in determining whether state programs also satisfy the benchmark of the federal regulations. The court concludes by noting that the amendment is the sort of fine-tuning that must be expected as an agency grapples with the implementation of a complex and imprecise statute.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Ronald J. Wilson
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
1424 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20005
(202) 347-1770

L. Thomas Galloway
Center for Law & Social Policy, 1751 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-9084

Counsel for Defendants
Alfred T. Chiorzi
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2306

Counsel for Intervenors
Warner W. Gardner
Shea & Gardner
1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 828-2000

John A. Macleod
Crowell & Moring
1100 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 452-5800