Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Maryland Waste Coalition v. SCM Corp.

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20158
Nos. No. R-85-1067, 616 F. Supp. 1474/23 ERC 1256/(D. Md., 09/04/1985)

The court holds that a state administrative enforcement action that concluded in a consent order does not preclude a Clean Air Act citizen suit, but a civil enforcement action instituted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preempts that portion of the suit concerning violations of the same standards that are subject of the EPA proceeding. The court first holds that the administrative proceeding that led to a consent order between defendant and the state does not bar plaintiff's citizen suit. The court adopts the position of the Second Circuit that the "action in a court" language in the citizen suit provision of both the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) refers only to judicial tribunals, not to administrative ones. When Congress has intended that administrative proceedings be included as a bar to citizen action, it has does so with appropriate language in the statute; the language in the Clean Air Act and the FWPCA refers clearly to action "in a court." The court then rejects defendant's argument that the court should abstain from hearing the case. The court refers to the case filed by EPA pending before this court for a more detailed review of its reasoning, but notes that defendant has not demonstrated the existence of any state court litigation that would adequately resolve the issues, that the state and federal courts have not exercised contemporaneous jurisdiction, and that the Clean Air Act itself does not show any congressional intent to have state administrative actions preclude enforcement in federal court. Lastly, the court rules that the parallel EPA action before the court alleging violations of Maryland's state implementation plan precludes portions of plaintiff's suit. Plaintiff seeks to compel compliance with some of the same standards that are the subject of the pending litigation. If EPA has instituted a civil enforcement proceeding to compel compliance by a specified violator, a subsequent action seeking the same relief against the same violator is redundant. In a footnote, the court observes that it might have reached a different result in an FWPCA suit, where a plaintiff may seek civil penalties.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John F. King, G. Macy Nelson
Anderson, Coe & King
800 Fidelity Bldg., Baltimore MD 21201
(301) 752-1630

Counsel for Defendant
Joseph F. Kaufman
Melnicove, Kaufman, Weiner & Smouse
36 S. Charles St., Baltimore MD 21201-3060
(301) 332-8500

Charles F. Lettow, Elliot E. Polebaum
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1752 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 728-2700