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Sierra Club v. EPA

Citation: 32 ELR 20760
No. Nos. 01-1070, -1158, 294 F.3d 155/(D.C. Cir., 07/02/2002)

The court vacates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) approval of the revised ozone state implementation plans (SIPs) for the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area (Washington Metropolitan Area), made up of the District of Columbia, portions of Maryland, and portions of Virginia. The district and the two states submitted three SIPs for the Washington Metropolitan Area, but the SIPs did not provide for attainment by the Clean Air Act's (CAA's) November 15, 1999, deadline, did not propose any reasonably available control measures (RACM), and did not provide for annual rates of progress after 1999. EPA approved the SIPs and extended the attainment deadline to 2005 due to the downwind effects of ozone on the area's attainment, and an environmental group challenged EPA's approval of the SIPs. The court first holds that the CAA's plain terms precluded EPA's extension of the attainment date in the three SIPs. The CAA provides that serious nonattainment areas such as the Washington Metropolitan Area must meet the November 15, 1999, attainment deadline. The deadline can be extended in certain limited circumstances or when an area is reclassified as severe. However, EPA neither determined if the Washington Metropolitan Area met the limited circumstances nor reclassified the area as severe. Although the area's nonattainment might be due to downwind ozone, the CAA sets out a specific deadline extension for nonattainment due to downwind emissions, which the Washington Metropolitan Area does not meet and other downwind ozone extensions cannot be inferred from the CAA. The extension of the Washington Metropolitan Area's attainment deadline also does not fall within an exception to a literal reading of the statute, must not be accepted to give effect to the congressional intent not to punish downwind states affected by ozone transport, and is not compelled by circuit precedent. CAA §172(c)(1) requires a SIP to provide for RACM measures as expeditiously as possible, but EPA failed to consider whether any particular measures in the SIPs fell within the Agency's definition of RACM. The court holds, therefore, that the omission renders EPA's decision to treat certain measures within the SIPs as RACM arbitrary and capricious. Moreover, CAA §182(c)(2)(B) provides that a SIP for a serious nonattainment area must reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by at least 3% of baseline emissions each year, but the SIPs provided for no reductions after 1999. EPA had no authority to approve the SIPs without rates of progress for the years after 1999. The court further holds that EPA lacked authority to approve the SIPs because the plans lacked contingency measures if the area fails to meet further progress, and such measures are required by CAA §172(c)(9).

Counsel for Petitioner
David S. Baron
Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
202 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix AZ 85004
(602) 258-8850

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

Ginsburg, J. Before Edwards and Sentelle, JJ.