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Amoco Oil Co. v. EPA

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20236
Nos. No. 99-1534, 231 F.3d 694/51 ERC 1786/(10th Cir., 10/31/2000)

The court holds that although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) withdrawal of a final administrative order (FAO) against an oil company rendered moot the oil company's appeal of a district court decision upholding the FAO, vacatur of the district court's order is not the proper remedy. EPA withdrew the FAO as part of a settlement between the company and citizens suing the company under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. After withdrawal of the FAO, the company sought vacatur of the district court decision. The court first holds that EPA's withdrawal of the FAO occurred as a result of a settlement between the parties and, as a result, vacatur is not an available remedy. Vacatur is available when mootness results from the unilateral action of the party who prevailed in the lower court. When a party voluntarily agrees to a settlement that renders the case moot, that party forfeits the legal remedy of appeal and is no longer entitled to the equitable remedy of vacatur. Here, the company's characterization of EPA's action as unilateral is unsupported by the facts. The record contains correspondence between EPA, the state environmental agency, the company, and the district judge revealing an understanding among the parties that the finalization of the consent decree was contingent upon the withdrawal of the FAO. In fact, the company recognizes the settlement was contingent on EPA's withdrawal of the FAO in a letter. Thus, the company voluntarily participated in a settlement process that ultimately mooted the case on appeal. The company may not now seek relief based on the unfavorable results of its own litigation strategy.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John D. Fognani
Zevnik, Horton, Guibord, McGovern, Palmer & Fognani
555 17th St., 26th Fl., Denver CO 80202
(303) 382-6200

Counsel for Defendant
Ellen J. Durkee
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before McWilliams and Murphy, JJ.