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Pacific Legal Found. v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20109
Nos. No. CV 78-3464, 539 F. Supp. 841/17 ERC 1801/(C.D. Cal., 03/16/1982)

The court rules that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it awarded construction grants to the city of Los Angeles under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) without first determining the impacts of the projects on endangered species and that it violated the FWPCA by its failure to either issue or deny a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit for the Los Angeles Hyperion wastewater treatment plant upon the expiration of the plant's permit on December 17, 1979. The court finds that prior to awarding to grants, EPA failed, in violation of the ESA, to (1) ask the Secretary of the Interior if any species present at the sites were listed on or proposed to be listed on the endangered species list, (2) consult with Interior to insure that the projects would not jeopardize endangered species or their habitats, or (3) identify any endangered species likely to be affected by the projects through a biological assessment. It also holds that EPA violated NEPA because the projects may have a significant impact on the human environment and EPA failed to prepare an environmental assessment. Although EPA did prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the regional sewage treatment program, the EIS did not consider the impacts of the proposed projects on endangered species, or all reasonable alternatives including the current ocean dumping method, and thus fails to meet the consultation requirements of the ESA.

In finding that EPA violated the NPDES permit requirements of the FWPCA, the court holds that the Act requires review of NPDES permits by EPA, with the opportunity for public comment, and issuance or denial of a new permit at intervals not greater than five years. The court enjoins EPA from awarding or releasing funds for the construction projects or any projects that are part of the regional sludge management program until the requirements of the ESA and NEPA are met. It also orders EPA to comply with permit requirements of the FWPCA, which includes a determination of the impacts of the Hyperion plant on endangered species, within 180 days. The court grants the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

Counsel for Plaintiff
David M. Shell
Pacific Legal Foundation
455 Capitol Mall, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 444-0154

Counsel for Defendants
Roger E. West, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Cthse., 312 N. Spring St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 688-2461