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United States v. Stauffer Chemical Co.

464 U.S. 165 (1984)

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United States v. Stauffer Chemical Co.

United States Supreme Court

464 U.S. 165 (1984)

Facts

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (plaintiff) tried to conduct an inspection of a Wyoming plant belonging to Stauffer Chemical Co. (Stauffer) (defendant) using private contractors rather than EPA employees. The private contractors would not sign Stauffer’s nondisclosure agreements. Stauffer blocked the inspection and sued the EPA in district court, alleging that private contractors were not “authorized representatives” that could conduct inspections under the Clean Air Act of 1963. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s injunction in favor of Stauffer, holding that private contractors were not authorized representatives (Stauffer I). Separately, the EPA also tried to inspect Stauffer’s Tennessee plants using private contractors. As in Wyoming, Stauffer blocked the Tennessee inspections for the same reason as before. A Tennessee district court ruled in the EPA’s favor but was reversed on appeal by the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit agreed with the Tenth Circuit on the authorized-representatives issue and, further, found that the EPA was collaterally estopped by Stauffer I from relitigating the issue (Stauffer II). Meanwhile, in a case between the EPA and an unrelated party, the Ninth Circuit held that private contractors were authorized representatives under the Clean Air Act. The United States Supreme Court agreed to review the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Stauffer II.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (White, J.)

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