Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Natural Resources Defense Council v. Fox

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20463
Nos. 94 Civ. 8424 (PKL), 129 F. Supp. 2d 666/(S.D.N.Y., 02/06/2001) Awarding attorney fees

The court holds that an environmental group that successfully challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) treatment of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) that were submitted for 10 New York reservoirs was a prevailing party and awards the group $221,732.71 in attorney fees and expenses. In the underlying lawsuit, the court ordered EPA, which had treated the 10 TMDLs as "informational," to take action on the submitted TMDLs, but dismissed the group's remaining claims. The court first holds that the group is a prevailing party and is eligible for a fee award because the prevailing claim was a significant issue in the litigation and achieved some of the benefit the group sought in bringing the suit. In calculating the loadstar, however, the court excludes those costs associated with the time the group spent on certain unsuccessful claims in which it alleged that EPA violated the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to intervene and identify threatened water bodies and to establish pollution limits for New York. The group's reliance on the catalyst theory for these unsuccessful claims is misplaced because EPA did not alter its conduct with respect to any of these claims and because the group failed to establish causation. Fees based on hours associated with unsuccessful claims that were within "Phase II" of the litigation, however, may be awarded because they were intertwined with the group's prevailing claim. After calculating the hourly rate for the group's attorneys, the court awards the group $174,562.50 for time spent by the group's attorneys in the course of the underlying litigation. The court also awards the group $36,682.50 for time spent on the fee application and $10,487.71 in expenses, bringing the group's total award to $221,732.71 in attorney fees and expenses.

Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 26 ELR 20732, 29 ELR 20592, and 30 ELR 20493.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Mark A. Izeman
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
40 W. 20th St., New York NY 10011
(212) 727-2700

Counsel for Defendants
Mary Jo White, U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
One St. Andrew's Plaza
100 Church St., New York NY 10007
(212) 637-2200

Leisure, J.: