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Mountain States Legal Found. v. Costle

ELR Citation: 10 ELR 20769
Nos. No. 79-2261, 630 F.2d 754/14 ERC 2032/(10th Cir., 08/29/1980)

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Mountain States Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm, and named members of the Colorado State Assembly lack standing to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) conditional approval of Colorado's state implementation plan (SIP) and the imposition of sanctions under the Clean Air Act. In 1979, Colorado submitted a revised SIP to EPA as required by the 1977 amendments to the Act calling for designation of nonattainment areas. EPA determined that the revised SIP did not meet the requirements of the Act because nonattainment areas were not scheduled to be brought into compliance by 1982 yet the state had failed to adopt legislation creating an adequate automobile inspection and maintenance program, as required by the amendments. The Agency therefore imposed sanctions, including withholding of federal funds under §§176 and 316, and a ban on construction of stationary sources under §316, and required the state to meet a compliance timetable. Mountain States filed suit challenging EPA's sanctions as violations of the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments. EPA and the state, as intervenor, argued that Mountain States lacked standing to assert any constitutional arguments on behalf of the state. Although the Act expressly authorizes the sanctions imposed by EPA, the court determines that citizens' suits under §304 are restricted to actions seeking to enforce specific non-discretionary requirements of the Act. The court holds that neither the Assembly members nor Mountain States has standing to sue in their own right or on behalf of their officers, members, and supporters who reside in the nonattainment areas affected by the EPA action because they have not shown that they will suffer any direct harm from EPA's actions to demonstrate sufficient personal stake in the outcome of the controversy to be aggrieved within the meaning of §10(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act. The court points out that Mountain States admits that its claims are in reality claims directly affecting the sovereignty of the state. Thus, the only party with standing to challenge the action of EPA is the state of Colorado represented by the Attorney General, whose views on the merits run directly counter to those of plaintiffs. Finally, the court finds that EPA's final rule making approving Colorado's SIP renders the issues raised by the state moot.

Counsel for Petitioners
James G. Watt, Gale A. Norton
Mountain States Legal Foundation
1845 Sherman St., Denver CO 80203
(303) 861-0244

James W. Sanderson
Saunders, Snyder, Ross & Dickson
225 E. 16 Ave., Suite 802, Denver CO 80203
(303) 861-8200

Counsel for Respondents
Barbara Brandon
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5287

Joined by Doyle and McKay, JJ.