Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Ohio ex rel. Celebrezze v. U.S. Department of the Air Force

Citation: 17 ELR 21210
No. No. C-2-86-0175, (S.D. Ohio, 03/31/1987)

The court holds that Clean Air Act § 118 waives federal agencies' sovereign immunity from civil penalties for violations of Ohio air pollution regulations, and Ohio has properly stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Clean Air Act § 118 makes federal agencies subject to state requirements, process, and sanctions for the control and abatement of air pollution to the same extent as any private entity. The court rules that § 118's use of the term "sanctions" is not limited to civil penalties imposed by a court for violation of a court order, but rather also includes penalties imposed by a court for regulatory violations. Reviewing the legislative history, the court contrasts § 118 as passed by the House of Representatives, in which the committee report notes that "civil and criminal penalties" are available in addition to contempt citations to enforce injunctive relief, with § 118 as passed by the Senate, where the committee report speaks only of sanctions to enforce injunctive relief. The House bill was passed in lieu of the Senate bill, and the conference report indicates that the Senate concurred with the House provision on this point. The court compares the broader language of Clean Air Act § 118 with narrower language in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Congress also later enacted comparable amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act; the statutes differ on this point and Congress was aware of the distinctions. Moreover, "sanctions" is not a term of art to be narrowly construed, and Congress can be presumed to understand its commonly understood broad meaning.

Finally, the court holds that the complaint adequately states a cause of action upon which relief can be granted, and that challenges tofactual assertions must be resolved by the factfinder after evidence is presented.

[Briefs related to this case are digested at ELR PEND. LIT. 65932.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Jack Van Kley, Ass't Attorney General
Environmental Enforcement Section
30 E. Broad St., Columbus OH 43215
(614) 466-3376

Counsel for Defendant
James E. Ratten, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Room 200, 85 Marconi Blvd., Columbus OH 43215
(614) 469-5715