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Sierra Club v. Leavitt

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20138
Nos. No. 05-13959, (11th Cir., 06/08/2007)

The court reversed in part and affirmed in part a lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on claims that it violated its oversight responsibility under Clean Water Act (CWA) §303(d) in approving Florida's list of impaired waters. The court reversed the lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of EPA on an environmental group's claim challenging EPA's approval of Florida's decision not to list water bodies when the data showing that those water bodies were impaired consisted solely of fish consumption advisories for mercury or data that was older than 7.5 years. On remand, however, the lower court may still defer to EPA's positions that Florida was only required to consider fish consumption advisories based on water body-specific data and that EPA may add water bodies under fish consumption advisories to a state's impaired waters list. The lower court also erred in granting summary judgment in favor of EPA on the group's second claim that EPA's approval of Florida's priority ranking of water quality limited segments (WQLS) for total maximum daily load development was arbitrary and capricious. In so doing, the court misconstrued the group's argument. While the group's argument does implicate the ultimate priority-ranking designation that Florida gave to some WQLS, the group's true challenge is to the factors that Florida considered in assigning the designations. The court, therefore, vacated the entry of summary judgment on this claim and remanded it for further proceedings. Last, the court agreed with the lower court that EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in approving Florida's delisting of seven water bodies not meeting water quality standards due to natural conditions.