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Chico Service Station, Inc. v. Sol Puerto Rico Ltd.

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20083
Nos. No. 10-1200, (1st Cir., 01/26/2011)

The First Circuit, in a case of first impression, vacated a lower court decision that it should abstain from hearing a RCRA citizen suit concerning the cleanup of contamination caused by leaking USTs at a former gasoline filling station in Puerto Rico. The pendency of parallel state administrative proceedings led the lower court to abstain from hearing the appellants' federal citizen suit, ordering dismissal on the authority of Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315 (1943). Among several "compelling reasons to abstain" cited by the lower court were Puerto Rico's interest in uniform and coherent regulation of USTs and the availability of adequate judicial review of a final administrative decision under Puerto Rico law. In light of the important federal interests at stake and the care with which Congress delineated the situations in which RCRA citizen suits will be barred, only exceptional circumstances could justify abstention. Because such circumstances are not present here, the district court erred in abstaining. Neither the diligent prosecution bar nor mootness can independently support the district court's dismissal of the suit.