Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. v. Environmental Protection Agency
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
139 F.3d 914 (1998)
Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. (defendant) challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) (defendant) treatment standards and land disposal prohibition for untreated spent potliner, a byproduct of aluminum production, issued in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA based its treatment standard off the practices of Reynolds Metals Company, the only aluminum producer with a full-scale treatment process for its spent potliner. Reynolds treated and then deposited the spent potliners in a dedicated landfill. The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) was the EPA’s required test for solid wastes containing toxic metals. To set the spent potliner treatment standard pursuant to TCLP, the EPA took a treated potliner from Reynolds and tested the concentration of hazardous constituents released in simulated landfill conditions. However, when the EPA later tested the actual leachate from the Reynolds landfill, the hazardous concentrations were significantly higher than in the TCLP simulation and greatly exceeded the new treatment standard’s limits. The EPA postulated the failure was because the Reynolds landfill was more alkaline than the simulated landfill in the test. Regardless, the EPA allowed the treatment standard and land disposal restriction to go into effect, reasoning the treatment standard still represented an improvement even if it did not perform as expected. Columbia Falls argued implementing the treatment standard despite finding it failed to result in the expected decrease in hazardous constituent concentrations in the landfill leachate was arbitrary and capricious.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Randolph, J.)
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