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Sierra Club v. Whitman

Citation: 32 ELR 20586
No. Nos. 01-5123, -5299, 285 F.3d 63/(D.C. Cir., 04/04/2002)

The court affirms a February 2001, district court order requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make an air quality attainment status determination for the St. Louis, Missouri, area and to publish it in the Federal Register by March 20, 2001, and affirms a subsequent court order denying an environmental group's motion to enforce the February 2001, court order through an injunction that would prevent EPA from taking further action on its proposal to postpone St. Louis' nonattainment date and to withdraw its nonattainment determination and resulting classification change. On March 19, 2001, EPA published a notice of its determination for the St. Louis area pursuant to the court order. Shortly thereafter, EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to extend the attainment date until November 15, 2004, and to withdraw the March 19, 2001, reclassification and nonattainment determinations. The environmental group then filed a motion to enforce the February 2001, order, claiming that EPA's rulemakings regarding St. Louis' attainment status and its time limits violated the order. The district court denied the motion and the group appealed. The group also appealed the February 2001, judgment because the court refused to order EPA to make its determination retroactive and it rejected the group's argument that EPA had already made the attainment determination prior to the lawsuit. Both appeals were consolidated. The court first holds that in the February 2001, order, the district court properly rejected the group's claim that EPA had already determined that St. Louis had failed to attain the required ozone standard before this lawsuit began. EPA makes nonattainment determinations and reclassifications simultaneously and only through rulemaking. The court next holds that the district court also properly refused to order EPA to date its attainment determination May 15, 1997, the date the statute envisioned, rather than the actual date of EPA's action, March 19, 2001. The group's proposed solution would likely impose large costs on the states and the district court adhered to the limits of its jurisdiction in denying the requested relief. The court further holds that the district court did not err in denying the group's motion to enforce the court order. The Agency asked the court to clarify whether its order would prevent EPA from engaging in another rulemaking to postpone the effective date of its court-ordered determination of attainment, and the court ruled that its order did not restrict EPA from engaging in such later rulemakings. Moreover, by the time the motion to enforce was filed, EPA had complied with the court's original directive and performed its nondiscretionary duties.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (6 pp., ELR Order No. L-494).

Counsel for Appellants
Douglas R. Williams
International Center for Technology Assessment
310 D St. NE, Washington DC 20002
(202) 547-9359

Counsel for Appellees
Ronald M. Spritzer
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000