California Communities Against Toxics v. EPA

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 07-26-2012
  • Case #: 11-71127
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Chief Judge Kozinski, Circuit Judges Trott and Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

Vacatur of an invalid EPA rule during the pendency of remand is not appropriate where the vacatur would defeat the purpose of the Act under which the rule was made and the economic outcome would be disastrous.

California Communities Against Toxics and another environmental group challenged the EPA’s final rule approving a revised plan by the State of California to transfer air quality credits to Sentinel, a new power plant. The EPA admitted the reasoning for the rule was flawed but sought remand to reconsider its final initial action. The only issue before the court was whether vacatur of the rule was appropriate pending remand. The Ninth Circuit noted that “[a] flawed rule need not be vacated” because “when equity demands, the regulation can be left in place while the agency follows the necessary procedures to correct its action.” The Court reasoned that vacatur of the rule would delay the completion of the new power plant, which would defeat the purpose of the Clean Air Act by causing increased air pollution. The Court also reasoned that vacatur would cause disastrous economic damages because of the large size of the power plant project. Additionally, the Court noted that vacatur of the EPA rule would require “needless and duplicative legislative effort” by the California legislature. The Ninth Circuit held that under the circumstances vacatur was not appropriate. REMANDED without VACATUR.

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