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Environmental Defense Fund v. Costle

Citation: 8 ELR 20786
No. No. 77-1436, 12 ERC 1131/(D.D.C., 09/01/1978) Defendants' motion for summary judgment denied

The court denies defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings in a suit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) and the Department of the Interior's compliance with federal statutes in connection with measures to improve water quality in the Colorado River Basin. Counts I and II of the complaint alleged that EPA violated § 303 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) by approving a salinity control plan submitted by the states of the Colorado River Basin which was deficient under the Act and in failing to promulgate adequate water quality standards on its own. Although the court may reverse the agency's actions only if arbitrary and capricious, the nature of the court's review must be intensive. Without a trial on the merits, the court will be unable to scrutinize the agency's approval of the states' plan; the motion is thus denied with respect to Counts I and II. With regard to Count III, in which plaintiff attacks EPA's failure to impose maximum salinity controls where shown to be necessary, defendants argue that § 303(d)(3) prohibits federal regulation in the absence of state action. Finding this reasoning contrary to the Act's policies of requiring EPA action where the state regulation is deficient or not forthcoming and of eliminating discharges of pollutants by 1985, the court denies the motion. Defendants' objection to plaintiff's fourth claim is addressed at an overly technical defect and is also denied. The fifth count is attacked not by the federal defendants but by the intervenor states. Since that court concerns solely the duties of the Department of the Interior under the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act, the states do not have standing to advance this motion and it is denied. Defendants contend that Count VI, alleging EPA's violation of § 102(2)(E) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in failing to fully analyze alternative pollution control strategies in its environmental impact statement, is invalid because EPA is statutorily exempt from the duty to prepare an impact statement when engaged in implementation of the FWPCA. The court finds, however, that such an exemption applies only to duties imposed under § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, not to § 102(2)(E), and denies the motion. The court further finds that judgment on the pleadings is inappropriate because of several outstanding issues relating to interstate water compacts which have not been fully addressed by all the parties.

Counsel are listed at 8 ELR 20782.