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Center for Auto Safety v. Ruckelshaus

ELR Citation: 14 ELR 20863
Nos. No. 82-2032, 747 F.2d 1/21 ERC 1865/(D.C. Cir., 10/26/1984)

The court rules that §207(c) of the Clean Air Act does not authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow a manufacturer to offset widespread nonconformity with the Act's emission standards in a class of motor vehicles by achieving extra emission reductions in future classes instead of by recalling the nonconforming class. The court first finds that the plain language of §207(c) seems to preclude the offset plan. The section requires manufacturers to "remedy" emission nonconformities in vehicles in use that have been properly used and maintained. The court rejects respondents' and intervenor General Motors' claim that "remedy" should be given its common-law meaning, which would include substitutional relief, such as damages, in lieu of correction of the offense. There is no evidence that Congress intended this specialized meaning of "remedy" to apply instead of the normal meaning. The court finds confirmation for its reading in the surrounding text of §207(c) and its legislative history. The section requires EPA to notify auto dealers and purchasers of a nonconformity in a class of vehicles, a provision that would be meaningless if Congress intended to allow substitutional remedies. The legislative history contains no hint that Congress intended any remedy other than recalls. While the court's statutory analysis leads it to agree with intervenor that Congress left EPA discretion as to whether to require a recall, it does not suggest that Congress intended to authorize any other remedy. Finally, the court concludes that the principle of deference to the Agency's interpretation of the statute does not require the court to uphold the offset plan. This case does not involve highly technical issues and the Agency's conclusion that an offset could be allowed was neither contemporaneous with enactment of the statute nor long-standing. Under these circumstances EPA is due only modest deference, which does not overcome the strong evidence of contrary congressional intent.

Counsel for Petitioners
Frederic Townsend, Alan B. Morrison
Public Citizen Litigation Group
2000 P St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 293-5083

David D. Doniger
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
1350 New York Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20005
(202) 783-7800

Counsel for Respondents
William F. Pedersen, Associate General Counsel; Gerald K. Gleason, Samuel I. Gutter
Office of the General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 382-7606

John L. Wittenborn
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2182

Counsel for Intervenor
Theordore Souris
Bodman, Longley & Dahling
34th Floor, 100 Renaissance Ctr., Detroit MI 48243
(313) 259-7777

Before: WILKEY, MIKVA, and SCALIA, Circuit Judges.