Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Ashoff v. Ukiah, City of

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20217
Nos. No. 97-15010, 130 F.3d 409/(9th Cir., 12/02/1997)

The court holds that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) does not authorize a citizen suit against a California city's solid waste disposal site for violation of RCRA authorized state regulations that are more stringent than federal minimum standards. The court first holds that RCRA authorizes citizen suits on the basis of the federal minimum criteria in approved states if the state standards became effective pursuant to RCRA. The court next holds that RCRA does not authorize suits based on state standards that are more stringent than the federal criteria, because the state standards do not become effective pursuant to RCRA. When a state elects to create more stringent standards, nothing in RCRA gives them legal effect. Their legal effect flows from state law. The court next rejects the relevancy of plaintiff's assertion that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA) create a similar relationship between the federal government and the states and that, under those statutes, citizens can sue on the basis of the more stringent state standards. The FWPCA and the CAA differ from RCRA in important respects. The FWPCA explicitly calls upon states to create more stringent standards, and the FWPCA citizen suit provision specifically incorporates state orders and state permit programs. The CAA also explicitly mentions state orders in its citizen suit provision, as well as standards created by a state program. RCRA has no analogous provisions. The court next admits the possibility of plaintiff's assertion that limiting claims to those based on federal minima will allow landfill owners to defeat RCRA citizen suits by arguing in every case that the state standard is more stringent. However, such considerations are insufficient to cause the court to turn away from the legally correct interpretation of the statute.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Kenneth B. Finney
Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe
333 Bush St., San Francisco CA 94104
(415) 772-6000

Counsel for Defendant
Rick W. Jarvis
Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson
Gateway Plaza
777 Davis St., Ste. 300, San Leandro CA 94577
(510) 351-4300

Before Alarcon and Nelson, JJ.