The National Cotton Council of America v. United States Environmental Protection Agency
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
553 F.3d 927 (2009)
The Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted by Congress to restore and maintain the nation’s waters. The CWA sought to protect water quality by providing that any discharge of any pollutant by any person is unlawful. The CWA defined pollutants to include chemical wastes, sewage, biological materials, and other wastes discharged into waters. The CWA prohibited the discharge of any pollutant into navigable waters from any point source unless the EPA issued a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). If a party obtained an NPDES permit, they were allowed to discharge pollutants into navigable waters. In 2007, the EPA issued a final rule concluding that pollutants may be discharged without an NPDES permit if they are pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). FIFRA required that all pesticides must be registered with the EPA. The EPA approved a pesticide for registration when it found that the chemical, when used in accordance with common practices, will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. Prior to the final rule, pesticides could not be discharged without an NPDES permit. The final rule stated that pesticides applied consistently with FIFRA did not need an NPDES permit if they were applied directly to waters to control pests or applied over or near waters to target pests. Under the final rule, the EPA did not consider pesticides to be pollutants. The EPA considered that pesticide residuals, which are the portions of pesticides that remain in waters after the completion of the application of the pesticide for its intended purpose, were pollutants. The EPA stated that pesticide residuals were not subject to the permitting program because, at the time of discharge, they were not pollutants. The National Cotton Council of America and other environmental and industry groups (plaintiffs) opposed the final rule as exceeding the EPA’s interpretive authority.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cole, J.)
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