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United States v. M/V Sanctuary

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20222
Nos. No. 07-2123, (4th Cir., 08/25/2008)

The Fourth Circuit upheld a district court's issuance of a warrant authorizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inspect a former U.S. Navy ship for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The owner of the ship argued that in enacting the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Congress granted EPA subpoena power "[i]n lieu of warrant authority." Yet EPA's authority to seek a warrant stems from its inspection authority. TSCA explicitly authorizes EPA to inspect a premises or conveyance where there are substances regulated by the Act. Nothing in Congress' grant of subpoena power indicates that it intended to preclude EPA from obtaining warrants to implement its inspection authority. The inspection authority and the subpoena power are separate grants of authority governing separate subjects of investigation. EPA's inspection authority extends to the physical inspection of premises or conveyances, while its subpoena power extends to persons (or entities) who may be compelled to testify or to produce reports, documents, or other information. In addition, there was probable cause to believe that PCBs were present on the ship, rendering it proper for EPA to conduct an inspection to determine whether TSCA's requirements were being met. Last, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction that prevented the ship from being moved while EPA executed its inspection warrant and considered what, if any, regulatory or enforcement action was warranted.