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Natural Resources Defense Council v. California Dep't of Transp.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20173
Nos. 94-56558, 96 F.3d 420/(9th Cir., 09/17/1996)

The court holds that the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not bar a citizen suit against a California state official for violating the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) by failing to control stormwater discharges from roadways and maintenance yards. The court first notes that under Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit against a state official acting in violation of federal law, and allows courts to award prospective injunctive relief that governs the official's future conduct, but not retroactive relief that requires the payment of funds from the state treasury. Ex Parte Young's purpose of holding state officials responsible to the supreme authority of the United States would be undermined if state officials were not required to act consistently with federal statutes, as well as the federal constitution. The court holds that Ex Parte Young applies to violations of federal statutory rights. Citing Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 116 S. Ct. 1114 (1996), the court next notes that Congress may choose to limit the availability of an Ex Parte Young suit against state officers for violations of federal statutory law. However, the court holds that in the FWPCA, Congress implicitly intended to authorize citizens to bring Ex Parte Young suits against state officials responsible for complying with clean water standards and permits.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Gail R. Feuer
Natural Resources Defense Council
6310 San Vicente Blvd., Ste. 250, Los Angeles CA 90048
(213) 934-6900

Counsel for Defendant
Glenn B. Mueller
Department of Transportation
200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 485-2265

Before HALL, O'SCANNLAIN, and KLEINFELD, Circuit Judges.