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Friends of the Earth v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20073
Nos. 12-0363, (D.D.C., 03/27/2013) (Jackson, J.)

A district court held that EPA has no mandatory or nondiscretionary duty to make a determination as to whether lead emissions from general aviation aircraft engines using aviation gasoline endanger the public health or welfare under CAA §231(a)(2)(A). A finding that emissions cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare is referred to as an "endangerment determination," and the making of such a finding would trigger EPA's statutory obligation to promulgate standards to govern the emissions. The case arose after an environmental group filed a petition seeking rulemaking on lead emissions from aviation aircraft. EPA ultimately denied the petition, and the group filed a citizen suit, arguing that EPA's failure to make an endangerment determination for lead emissions to date constitutes the unreasonable delay by the agency in performing its statutory duty that private individuals may challenge under CAA §304. But the language and structure of the statute render the endangerment determination a discretionary act. And even if one could infer from the structure of the statute that there is some point at which it may become mandatory for EPA to make an endangerment determination, the assessment of whether that point has been reached is not within the jurisdiction of the court and is not the kind of nondiscretionary duty that Congress granted the court jurisdiction to compel.