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Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air v. Pennsylvania

Citation: 12 ELR 20631
No. No. 82-1104, 678 F.2d 470/17 ERC 1695/(3d Cir., 05/21/1982) Civil contempt order & injunction aff'd

The Third Circuit affirms a decision by the district court, 12 ELR 20191, holding the Commonwealth in civil contempt for violating a consent decree requiring it to implement an automobile inspection and maintenance (I/M) program and ordering the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to withhold federal highway funds. The court rules that the Commonwealth and the state executive agencies can be held in civil contempt since the Commonwealth itself is bound by the consent decree. Therefore, it is irrelevant that the state executive agencies are unable to comply with the decree due to subsequent legislation cutting off funds for the I/M program. While the executive branch officials cannot comply, the legislature can, thereby eliminating the defense of impossibility. The Third Circuit also affirms the district court's refusal to modify the decree. The Commonwealth does not qualify for a changed circumstance modification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) because the only change is within its control. The court rejects appellants' arguments that only the federal executive branch may impose the transportation funding sanction since the sanction is for violation of the decree not for violation of the Clean Air Act. The district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the sanction. Not only was it suggested by Congress itself, but it serves to induce implementation of the I/M program and to inhibit pollution-causing highway construction.

[The issues in this case are analyzed at 12 ELR 10027; related decisions are reported at 11 ELR 20952, 20954, 20956, 12ELR 20191, 20289, 20295, ELR PEND. LIT. 65742 — ED.]

Counsel are listed at 12 ELR 20289.

Gibbons, J. (joined by Hunter and Gerry,* JJ.)