316 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir. 2003), 02-70986, Public Citizen v. Department of Transp

Docket Nº:02-70986, 02-71249.
Citation:316 F.3d 1002
Party Name:PUBLIC CITIZEN; Brotherhood of Teamsters, Auto and Truck Drivers, Local 70; California Labor Federation; California Trucking Association; Environmental Law Foundation; International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Petitioners, Natural Resources Defense Council; Planning and Conservation League, Petitioners-Intervenors, v. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; Fe
Case Date:January 16, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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316 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir. 2003)

PUBLIC CITIZEN; Brotherhood of Teamsters, Auto and Truck Drivers, Local 70; California Labor Federation; California Trucking Association; Environmental Law Foundation; International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Petitioners,

Natural Resources Defense Council; Planning and Conservation League, Petitioners-Intervenors,


DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Nicholas R. Walsh, Respondents.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Brotherhood of Teamsters, Auto and Truck Drivers, Local 70; California Labor Federation; California Trucking Association; Environmental' Law Foundation; Public Citizen, Petitioners,

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Natural Resources Defense Council; Planning and Conservation League, Petitioners-Intervenors,


U.S. Department of TRansportation; Federal Motor CArrier Safety Administration; Joseph M. Clapp; Nicholas R. Walsh, Respondents.

Nos. 02-70986, 02-71249.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 16, 2003

Argued and Submitted Oct. 8, 2002.

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Patrick J. Coughlin, Randi D. Bandman, and Stanley S. Mallison, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, San Francisco, CA; William S. Lerach and Patrick W. Daniels, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, San Diego, CA; Albert H. Meyerhoff, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, Los Angeles, CA; and Charles S. Crandall, San Luis Obispo, CA, for all petitioners.

Stephen P. Berzon and Jonathan Weissglass, Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Rubin & Demain, San Francisco, CA, for petitioners International Brotherhood of Teamsters, California Labor Federation, and Environmental Law Foundation.

Patrick J. Szymanski, General Counsel, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Washington, DC, for petitioner International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

David Rosenfeld, Van Bourg, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, Oakland, CA, for petitioner Brotherhood of Teamsters, Auto and Truck Drivers, Local 70.

David Vladeck, Public Citizen, Washington, DC, for petitioner Public Citizen.

Adriana Quintero Somaini, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA; and Gail Ruderman Feuer, Natural Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles, CA, for petitioners-intervenors Natural Resources Defense Council and Planning and Conservation League.

Kirk K. Van Tine, General Counsel, Paul M. Geier, Assistant General Counsel, Peter J. Plocki, and David R. Kock, Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; Judith A. Rutledge, Chief Counsel, and Michael J. Falk, Federal Motor Carrier Safety

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Administration, Washington, DC; Kelly A. Johnson, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice, Washington, DC; and Andrew C. Mergen, David C. Shilton, and John L. Smeltzer, Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC, for the respondents.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of the State of CA, Richard M. Frank, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Theodora Berger, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Susan L. Durbin and Edward H. Ochoa, Deputy Attorneys General, Sacramento, CA, for amicus curiae the People of the State of California ex rel. Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Margaret N. Strand, Bruce R. Parker, and Lindsay B. Meyer, Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti, LLP, Washington, DC; and Beth L. Law, ATA Litigation Center, Inc., for amicus curiae ATA Litigation Center, Inc.



WARDLAW, Circuit Judge.

Petitioners1 challenge the Department of Transportation's failure to conduct the requisite environmental analyses prior to promulgating three regulations, the combined effect of which will permit Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate within the United States beyond the current limited border zones, thus fulfilling the United States' obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Upon completion of a preliminary Environmental Assessment for two of the three regulations, the Department of Transportation decided that there was no need for further environmental analysis. Petitioners claim that the Department of Transportation's failure to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement for all three regulations violates the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and that its further failure to conduct a "conformity determination" to ensure that the regulations do not disrupt applicable State Implementation Plans violates the Clean Air Act. Although we agree with the importance of the United States' compliance with its treaty obligations with its southern neighbor, Mexico, such compliance cannot come at the cost of violating United States law. Because we conclude that the Department of Transportation acted without regard to well-established United States environmental laws, we grant the petitions.


Before proceeding to the regulations at issue, it is useful to examine the legal and regulatory context in which they were promulgated. These regulations can only be considered against the historical backdrop of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Pub.L. No. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852 (1970) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370f) ("NEPA"), the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671q ("CAA"), and the North American Free Trade Agreement, Dec. 17, 1992, U.S.-Can.-Mex., 32 I.L.M. 289 (chs.1-9), 32 I.L.M. 605 (chs.10-22) (1993) ("NAFTA").

A. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

On January 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed NEPA into law. Although

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various state and federal environmental measures had been in place for decades, this statute marked the first nationwide comprehensive approach to regulating the interaction between Americans and their environment. Prompted by a series of environmental crises in the late 1960s, NEPA's sweeping reach reflected Congress's conviction that "our Nation's present state of knowledge, our established public policies, and our existing governmental institutions are not adequate to deal with the growing environmental problems and crises the Nation faces." S.Rep. No. 91-296, at 4 (1969).

Such broad policy creation was also reflected in the statute's first section, containing the congressional declaration of purpose:

The purposes of this chapter are: To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.

42 U.S.C. § 4321. To accomplish these ends, Congress imposed extensive procedural requirements on government action affecting the environment. Paramount among these were the requirements that all federal agencies shall, "to the fullest extent possible":

(A) utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decisionmaking which may have an impact on man's environment;

(B) identify and develop methods and procedures . . . which will insure that presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given appropriate consideration in decisionmaking along with economic and technical considerations;

(C) include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on—

(i) the environmental impact of the proposed action,

(ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented,

(iii) alternatives to the proposed action,

(iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man's environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and

(v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.

Id. § 4332(2). Congress further directed that, again "to the fullest extent possible," "the policies, regulations, and public laws of the United States shall be interpreted and administered in accordance with the policies set forth in this chapter." Id. § 4332(1). This unequivocal command has guided the United States' environmental policy for more than thirty years, and pervades every aspect of government decisionmaking.

B. Clean Air Act

Federal air quality legislation dates back to at least the mid-1950s, and the CAA itself to 1963, Pub.L. No. 88-206, 77 Stat. 393, but it was the substantial amendment in 1970, Pub.L. No. 91-604, 84 Stat. 1713, that gave the Act its modern, far-reaching scope. The Act was amended again to further broaden its reach in 1977, Pub.L.

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No. 95-95, 91 Stat. 749, and in 1990, Pub.L. No. 101-549, 104 Stat. 2399. Before the 1970 Amendments, there existed no federal air pollution standards, nor mandatory enforcement mechanisms; federal officials could only encourage states to develop air-quality enforcement programs. All this was dramatically altered by the 1970 Amendments, which mandated national air quality standards and deadlines for their attainment. Pub.L. No. 91-604, § 4, 84 Stat. at 1678-89. These amendments also created an innovative federal-state partnership structure whereby states were to develop individual "implementation plans" to attain compliance with federal standards, and the newly created Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") was charged with evaluating, overseeing, and enforcing state compliance with these plans....

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