Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council

Citation: 14 ELR 20507
No. Nos. 82-1005 et al., 467 U.S. 837/21 ERC 1049/(U.S., 06/25/1984) Rev'd

In an opinion subscribed to by all six Justices participating, the Court holds that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) nonattainment area program rules under the Clean Air Act, which define stationary "source" so as to allow states to treat all pollution-emitting points in a single industrial plant as though they were enclosed by a "bubble" with a single emission outlet, are a reasonable construction of the statutory term. The EPA definition equates "source" with an entire plant to allow the bubble policy to ease restrictions on major modifications of plants in nonattainment areas. The Court explains that judicial review of an agency's construction of a statute is a two-step process. The court first must determine whether Congress answered the specific question in dispute, and if so, must give effect to that answer. If Congress' intent cannot be divined, the court must limit its review to whether the agency's answer is based on a reasonable construction of the statute. The Court rules that the language of the Clean Air Act and its legislative history do not define "stationary source" for the nonattainment area new source permit program, although they suggest an intent to give EPA flexibility in defining "source." The legislative history does indicate that Congress intended to balance conflicting interests in economic growth and improving air quality in nonattainment areas. The Court rules that EPA's changes in its interpretation of "source" do not eliminate the need for deference to the most recent version. The changes reflected reasoned exercise of the flexibility given the Agency by Congress. Any rigid limits on the definition came not from Congress or EPA, but from the D.C. Circuit in decisions in which the court wrongly injected its own policy judgments into the gap left by Congress. Such policy considerations and the policy arguments of respondents should be addressed to the legislative or administrative branches, not to the judiciary.

Counsel for Petitioners
Michael H. Salinsky
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro
P.O. Box 7880, San Francisco CA 94120
(415) 983-1462

Robert A. Emmett
Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay
747 Union Trust Bldg., Pittsburgh PA 15129
(412) 288-3228

Theodore L. Garrett
Covington & Burling
P.O. Box 7566, Washington DC 20044
(202) 662-6000

Louis E. Tosi
Fuller & Henry
300 Madison Ave., Toledo OH 43603
(419) 255-8220

Charles F. Lettow
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1752 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 728-2700

Rex E. Lee, Solicitor General
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2217

Counsel for Respondents
David D. Doniger
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
1725 I St. NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20006
(202) 223-8210

JUSTICE MARSHALL and JUSTICE REHNQUIST did not participate in the consideration or decision of these cases.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR did not participate in the decision of these cases.