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Davis County Solid Waste Management & Energy Recovery Special Serv. Dist. v. EPA

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20476
Nos. 95-1611, 101 F.3d 1395/(D.C. Cir., 12/06/1996)

The court holds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) 1995 municipal solid waste (MSW) combustion standards violate Clean Air Act (CAA) §129. For purposes of setting maximum achievable control technology (MACT) levels, EPA categorized MSW units according to aggregate plant MSW capacity, rather than individual unit capacity. The court first holds that the 1995 standards violate the plain meaning of §129. Section 129(a)(1) expressly differentiates among units based on unit MSW capacity. The plain implication of §129(a)(1) is that the types of units it lists are the relevant categories for determining emissions standards. EPA's claim that §129(a)(1) is simply a scheduling provision is implausible. The only interpretation of §129's language that both gives meaning to the regulatory deadlines in §129(a)(1) and coheres with the MACT methodology set out in §129(a)(2) is one that reads §129(a)(1) as creating two categories of municipal waste combustor (MWC) units for regulatory purposes. In addition, §§111 and 112 illustrate that Congress knew how to bestow category-defining discretion when it wanted to do so.

The court next holds that the CAA's legislative history fails to provide evidence that reading §129 as creating two categories of MWC units based on unit capacity would frustrate legislative purpose or otherwise violate the intent of the Act's drafters. The court discerns no clear congressional understanding as to what categories of solid waste incineration units §129 created. In addition, reading §129 as categorizing MWC units based on unit capacity instead of aggregate plant capacity will not frustrate Congress' purpose of forcing EPA to impose more stringent emission controls on existing units. To follow EPA's lead and read unit capacity as meaning aggregate plant capacity would essentially equate a unit with a facility in the face of explicit congressionally approved text providing that units and facilities are not identical. Finally, because EPA counsel stated that the 1995 standards would need to be vacated in their entirety if the court decided that MWC units had to be recategorized by unit capacity, and because it is not clear from the record which standards need to be changed and to what extent, the court vacates the standards in their entirety and remands to EPA for further proceedings.

Counsel for Petitioners
Mary Anne Q. Wood
Wood, Quinn & Crapo
60 E. South Temple, Ste. 500, Salt Lake City UT 84111
(801) 366-6060

Counsel for Respondent
John A. Sheehan, Eileen T. McDonough
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Ginsburg and Randolph, JJ.