California Communities Against Toxics v. Environmental Protection Agency

934 F.3d 627 (2019)

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California Communities Against Toxics v. Environmental Protection Agency

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
934 F.3d 627 (2019)

Facts

In 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (defendant) issued a memorandum on the interpretation of Clean Air Act § 112. The memo stated that the EPA’s classification of a toxic-emissions source as a “major source” (which was subject to strict emissions caps) was not open to later reclassification as an “area source” (for which standards were much more lenient). In 2018, the EPA issued a new memo with the stated intention of superseding the 1995 memo. The 2018 memo declared that under § 112, a major source could reclassify as an area source at any time by sufficiently lowering emissions. The State of California (plaintiff) and a group of concerned citizens, California Communities Against Toxics (plaintiff) (collectively, citizens), sought review of the 2018 memo in the District of Columbia Circuit. The citizens argued that the 2018 memo was both a final agency action and a legislative rule issued without proper notice and opportunity for comment. The citizens further argued that the memo incorrectly interpreted § 112. The EPA countered that the 2018 memo was neither a final action nor a legislative rule but rather a guidance document. The EPA also acknowledged that the memo was intended as its final word on the issue of emissions-source reclassification under § 112 but that neither the EPA nor any regulated party could rely on the memo as an authoritative document in a legal proceeding.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, J.)

Dissent (Rogers, J.)

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