Sierra Club v. U.S. EPA

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 08-12-2014
  • Case #: 11-73342; 11-73356
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judge Smith and Senior District Judge Quist
  • Full Text Opinion

The Clean Air Act requires a company to demonstrate that they complied with the applicable regulations in effect at the time a permit was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency; and, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot waive this requirement because Congress has spoken on this issue directly.

Avenal Power Center LLC ("Avenal") applied for a permit with the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to build a power plant in Avenal, California. Before the EPA granted or denied the application, the EPA tightened its air quality control standards. Avenal petitioned to be granted a permit under the previously applicable standards, because the EPA was required to grant or deny the application within one year and did not. The EPA initially refused, but later reversed, granting Avenal a permit under the previous standards and put forth that the EPA's decision was entitled to deference under Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. The Sierra Club, among others, challenged the EPA's action. The Ninth Circuit held that the Clean Air Act required Avenal to demonstrate that the Avenal Energy Project complied with regulations in effect at the time the permit was issued. The panel also held that because Congress had spoken to the precise question at issue, the EPA could not waive this requirement. Petition GRANTED. Decision to issue the permit is VACATED and REMANDED.

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