Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Train

544 F.2d 657 (1976)

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Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Train

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
544 F.2d 657 (1976)

Facts

Under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (defendant) was required to adopt rules prescribing optimal pollution-control technologies for point-source dischargers by October 1973. The FWPCA required point-source dischargers to adopt the prescribed technologies by July 1977. The FWPCA further provided that permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) would be used to enforce compliance with the point source-control-technology discharge provisions. The EPA did not meet the October 1973 deadline and still had not released control-technology rules as of 1976. All NPDES permits had to be issued by the end of 1974. In 1974, the EPA issued an NPDES permit to Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Bethlehem) (plaintiff) requiring compliance with discharge controls by July 1977. Bethlehem asserted that completion of the facilities necessary for compliance was not physically possible until July 1979. The EPA agreed but insisted that it lacked the authority under the FWPCA to grant an extension. The EPA stated in a letter that an enforcement action against Bethlehem was unlikely but would not alter the deadline in the permit. Bethlehem appealed, arguing that Congress did not intend dischargers to be penalized for failing to comply with unattainable deadlines. The legislative history of the FWPCA stated that the July 1977 deadline “must be achieved.” The House of Representatives version of the FWPCA included a provision allowing for extension of the deadline if compliance would cause hardship for the discharger, but this provision was dropped from the final version of the legislation.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Adams, J.)

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