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Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living v. Seif

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20487
Nos. 97-1125, 132 F.3d 925/46 ERC 1065/(3d Cir., 12/30/1997)

The court holds that a citizen group may maintain a private right-of-action against a state agency under discriminatory effect regulations promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to §602 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The citizen group alleged that a state agency's issuance of a permit to a company to operate a facility in a predominately black community violated EPA's civil rights regulations. The court first holds that applicable U.S. Supreme Court precedent is not dispositive over whether a private right-of-action exists under discriminatory effect regulations promulgated by federal agencies pursuant to §602. The Court did not directly address this issue in either of the cases cited by the parties. The court next holds that the lower court misapplied the court's decision in Chowdhury v. Reading Hospital & Medical Center, 677 F.2d 317 (3d Cir. 1982), in concluding that no private right-of-action exists under EPA's regulations. Chowdhury says nothing about the appropriateness of implying a private right-of-action. It merely indicates that the regulations themselves do not expressly provide for a significant role for private parties, which is apparent on the face of the regulations. However, the court further holds that other case precedent binding on the circuit does not resolve the issue of whether an implied right-of-action exists under §602.

Because no case precedent is dispositive, the court next applies a three-prong test for determining whether it is appropriate to imply a private right-of-action. Applying this test, the court holds that the citizen group may maintain an action under discriminatory effect regulations promulgated by EPA pursuant to §602 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. There is no question that EPA's discriminatory effect regulations are properly within the scope of the enabling statute. Supreme Court precedent makes clear that actions having an unjustifiable disparate impact on minorities can be redressed through agency regulations designed to implement the purposes of Title VI. Thus, the first prong is satisfied. The second prong of the test is also satisfied. The court finds that there is some indication in Title VI's legislative history of an intent to create a private right-of-action and that the implication of a private right-of-action would be consistent with its legislative scheme. Therefore, §602 properly permits the implication of a private right-of-action. As for the third prong of the text, the court finds that to the extent that a private right-of-action will increase enforcement, the implication of that right will further the dual purposes of Title VI—to combat discrimination by entities who receive federal funds and to provide citizens with effective protection against discrimination. Finally, the court notes that other courts of appeals indicate support for its reasoning.

Counsel for Appellants
Gilbert P. Carrasco
Villanova University School of Law
Garey Hall
Spring Hill Rd., Villanova PA 19085
(215) 519-7000

Counsel for Appellees
Mark L. Freed
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources
555 North La., Ste. 6015, Conshohocken PA 19428
(610) 832-6000

Before Roth and Lewis, JJ.