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Rio Hondo Land & Cattle Co., L.P. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20074
Nos. 19-9531, (10th Cir., 04/29/2021)

The Tenth Circuit denied a company's petition to review an Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) decision denying its petition to review a 2017 permit issued by EPA to an upstream wastewater treatment plant. In its petition, the company argued the permit constituted backsliding under the CWA, particularly because it removed concentration-based limits for nitrogen and phosphorus and increased the mass-based nitrogen limit, that EPA could not rely on an exclusion from the antibacksliding rule, and that the permit's limits would not assure attainment of applicable water quality standards. The EAB concluded the company had not met its burden of demonstrating that EPA clearly erred or abused its discretion in relying on a 2016 TMDL in issuing the permit and thus denied the petition. The appellate court found that EPA's reliance on the 2016 TMDL was reasonable, and that neither the elimination of concentration-based limits for nitrogen and phosphorus nor the increased mass-based nitrogen limit violated the antibacksliding rule because the revisions, which were based on the TMDL, fell within an exclusion under the rule, and the permit assured attainment of applicable water quality standards. It therefore denied the petition for review.