Natural Resources Defense Council v. Environmental Protection Agency

824 F.2d 1146 (1987)

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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Environmental Protection Agency

United States Court of Appeals for the district of Columbia circuit
824 F.2d 1146 (1987)

Facts

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (defendant) determined that vinyl chloride, a gaseous, synthetic chemical, was a powerful carcinogen. The best available science did not permit a determination of a safe level of human exposure to a carcinogen. Vinyl chloride was an apparent nonthreshold pollutant, meaning that any level of emission above zero appeared to create a risk to human health. The EPA proposed an emission standard for vinyl chloride at the lowest level attainable by current available emissions-control technology. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) (plaintiff) filed a petition for review of the EPA’s standard, arguing that if no safe level had been determined, it was arbitrary and capricious for the EPA to set any standard for emissions above zero. The NRDC argued that the EPA could not determine an appropriate margin of safety for a carcinogen such as vinyl chloride because current scientific knowledge did not permit a finding of any level of safe exposure. The EPA administrator argued that the EPA could set a standard by requiring emission reduction to the lowest level achievable using the best available technology if that level was below the level at which harm to human health has been demonstrated.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bork, J.)

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