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Exxon Mobil Corp. v. EPA

Citation: 30 ELR 20742
No. No. 99-70945, 217 F.3d 1246/(9th Cir., 07/07/2000)

The court upholds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) approval of the Nevada Clean Air Act (CAA) state implementation plan (SIP) revision that requires gasoline sold in the wintertime in Clark County, Nevada, which is a serious nonattainment area for carbon monoxide (CO), to contain at least 3.3% oxygen content by weight. A group of oil companies claimed that the CAA's 1990 Amendments adopted a nationwide oxygenated fuel content of 2.7% for nonattainment areas and that the CAA does not give states the authority to adopt a higher minimum. The court first holds that although CAA § 211(2)'s oxygenate requirement for nonattainment areas is ambiguous, in the context of the statute as a whole, states retain the authority to require a minimum oxygenate standard greater than 2.7%. The structure of environmental regulation under the CAA relies on state enforcement based on SIPs and the oxygenate fuel mandate is to be implemented through this SIP process. Further, CAA § 186(b)(3)(A) requires states to revise their SIPs to require gasoline sold to contain such level of oxygen as is necessary to provide for attainment of the CO national ambient air quality standard by the applicable attainment date. In addition, the legislative history of the adoption of the oxygenate fuel standards supports the conclusion that EPA's construction of the CAA to allow the revision was reasonable and should be entitled to deference. The court next holds that CAA § 211(c)(4)'s limitation of state enforcement of vehicle emission control does not preempt the county's oxygenate standard. Because air pollution prevention falls under the broad police powers of states, the authority of the states is assumed not to have been preempted unless it was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress to do so. The statutory preemption provisions at issue here focus on the regulation and prohibition of fuel additives rather than oxygenate standards and, therefore, do not demonstrate such a clear and manifest purpose to preempt state regulation of oxygenate levels.

Counsel for Petitioner
Craig E. Stewart
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro
50 Fremont St., San Francisco CA 94105
(415) 983-1000

Counsel for Respondents
Eileen McDonough
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Browning and Alarcon, JJ.