Environment. Orotect, Info. Ctr. v. Pacific Lumber, No. C 01-2821 MHP.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtPatel
Citation266 F.Supp.2d 1101
PartiesENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION INFORMATION CENTER, a nonprofit corporation, Plaintiff, v. PACIFIC LUMBER COMPANY, a Delaware corporation; Scotia Pacific Company LLC, a Delaware corporation; Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency; and Christine Todd Whitman, in her capacity as EPA Administrator, Defendants.
Decision Date06 June 2003
Docket NumberNo. C 01-2821 MHP.
266 F.Supp.2d 1101
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION INFORMATION CENTER, a nonprofit corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
PACIFIC LUMBER COMPANY, a Delaware corporation; Scotia Pacific Company LLC, a Delaware corporation; Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency; and Christine Todd Whitman, in her capacity as EPA Administrator, Defendants.
No. C 01-2821 MHP.
United States District Court, N.D. California.
June 6, 2003.

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Frank Shaw Bacik, John A. Behnke, Carter Behnke Oglesby & Bacik, Ukiah, CA, Christopher J. Carr, Bruce Stewart Flushman, Stoel Rives LLP, San Francisco, CA for Defendant.

Michael R. Lozeau, Deborah A. Sivas, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Stanford, CA, for Plaintiff.

Mark A. Rigau, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environmental & Natural Resources Div., San Francisco, CA, for Defendants U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Christine Todd Whitman, in her capacity as EPA Administrator.

OPINION

PATEL, Chief Judge.


Motions to Dismiss

Plaintiff Environmental Protection Information Center ("EPIC"), a non-profit environmental organization in Humboldt County, California, brings this action on behalf of itself and its members against Pacific Lumber Company and Scotia Pacific Lumber Company (collectively "PACO"), the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), and Christine Todd Whitman as EPA Administrator. Pursuant to state law and the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq., EPIC seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, civil penalties, and restitution for PALCO's alleged discharge of pollutants into Bear Creek in Humboldt County. EPIC also challenges an EPA regulation that allegedly excludes PALCO's actions from permitting required by the CWA. Now before the court are separate motions to dismiss by PALCO and EPA. After having considered the parties' arguments, and for the reasons stated herein, the court rules as follows.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background1

At the heart of this action is the Bear Creek watershed, covering 5500 acres of

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land in Humboldt County, California. Bear Creek, a tributary of the lower Eel River, is located several miles upstream of Scotia, California. Plaintiff EPIC alleges that there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of sediment deposited into Bear Creek—from approximately 8000 tons per year, before substantial logging in the area began, to 27,000 tons per year today. EPIC attributes the increase in sediment delivery to the logging activities of defendant Pacific Lumber Company and its wholly owned subsidiary, defendant Scotia Pacific Lumber Company, both of which are Delaware corporations with their principal places of business in Scotia. PALCO owns ninety-five percent of the land in the Bear Creek watershed and engages in logging throughout the watershed.

Specifically, EPIC alleges that the sediment increase is caused by PALCO's timber harvesting and construction of unpaved roads. EPIC contends that timber harvesting removes vegetation and makes soils more susceptible to erosion and landslides, and that the construction of unpaved roads exposes soils and destabilizes slopes. According to EPIC, rain carries the exposed silts and sediments—as well as other pollutants such as pesticides and diesel fuel—into culverts, ditches, erosion gullies and other alleged channels, and from there into Bear Creek.

A study conducted by PALCO consultants in April 1998 identified at least 179 specific sites in the watershed where sediments and other pollutants are deposited into Bear Creek and its tributaries. EPIC alleges that pollutant-laden water flows through, among other channels, 156 hillside culverts and 5.5 miles of roadside ditches that drain directly into streamcrossing culverts. PALCO has not applied for any permits for these sites, which EPIC contends should be regulated as point sources under the CWA. As a result of PALCO's activities, EPIC maintains that there have been significant adverse impacts on the beneficial uses of Bear Creek, including the use of the creek by fish for nesting and rearing habitat. Moreover, EPIC believes that further activities proposed in PALCO's timber harvest plans, such as construction of additional roads, culverts and ditches, could increase the amount of sediment, silt, and other pollutants deposited into Bear Creek.

II. Statutory and Regulatory Background

Congress enacted the CWA in 1972 "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a). The "fundamental premise" of the CWA is that "`the discharge of any pollutant by any person shall be unlawful'" unless authorized by the Act. Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC") v. EPA 822 F.2d 104, 109 (D.C.Cir.1987) (citing 33 U.S.C. § 1311(a)). The CWA primarily uses an effluent limitation approach that regulates certain sources of pollutants, known as "point sources," through technology-based standards. NRDC v. Train, 510 F.2d 692, 695 (D.C.Cir.1974). Water quality-based standards supplement technology standards when necessary to further control pollution in a body of water. NRDC v. EPA, 822 F.2d at 110. In contrast to the "end-of-pipe" regulation of point sources, nonpoint sources of pollution are only indirectly controlled through state management programs. See Oregon Natural Desert Ass'n v. Dombeck, 172 F.3d 1092, 1096-97 (9th Cir.1998), cert, denied 528 U.S. 964, 120 S.Ct. 397, 145 L.Ed.2d 310 (1999). The CWA also directs the EPA to issue information on nonpoint sources of pollution. 33 U.S.C. § 1314(f).

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A. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

The CWA prohibits the "discharge of any pollutant" except as authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit. 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311(a), 1342(a). NPDES permits are issued by either the EPA or a state with an approved program, such as California.2 Id. § 1342(a)-(b). The term "discharge of a pollutant" is defined by the CWA as "any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source." Id. § 1362(12)(A) (emphasis added). A "point source" is:

any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged. This term does not include agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture.

Id. § 1362(14). The term "pollutant" is defined broadly by the Act to include such substances as rock and sand, as well as industrial, municipal and industrial wastes. Id. § 1362(6).

B. Regulation of Silvicultural Sources

After the CWA was enacted, EPA promulgated regulations that exempted certain categories of discharges from NPDES permit requirements, including "[uncontrolled discharges composed entirely of storm runoff," and some "[discharges of pollutants from agricultural and silvicultural activities." 40 C.F.R. § 125.4 (1973). NRDC challenged the regulations in D.C. District Court, arguing that EPA did not have the authority to exempt categories of point sources from regulation. NRDC v. Train, 396 F.Supp. 1393, 1395 (D.D.C. 1975), aff'd, NRDC v. Costle, 568 F.2d 1369 (D.C.Cir.1977). The District Court agreed. Id. at 1396. In response to the District Court's decision, EPA promulgated a new regulation on silvicultural sources in 1976 that defined a silvicultural point source and gave examples of nonpoint sources in a comment.3 41 Fed.Reg. 24,709, 24,711 (June 18, 1976). When EPA repromulgated the regulation in 1980, the agency incorporated the comment in the text with slight changes to the language. 45 Fed.Reg. 33,290, 33,446-47 (May 19, 1980). The current regulation is identical to the one recodified in 1980 and defines a "[s]ilvicultural point source" as: any discernible, confined, and discrete conveyance related to rock crushing, gravel washing, log sorting, or log storage facilities which are operated in connection with silvicultural activities and from which pollutants are discharged into waters of the United States. The

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term does not include non-point source sOvicultural activities such as nursery operations, site preparation, reforestation and subsequent cultural treatment, thinning, prescribed burning, pest and fire control, harvesting operations, surface drainage, or road construction and maintenance from which there is natural runoff.

40 C.F.R. § 122.27(b)(1) (emphasis added).

C. 1987 Amendments on Municipal and Industrial Stormwater Discharges

In 1987, Congress amended the CWA to include a section on municipal and industrial stormwater discharges. See Pub.L. No. 100-4, 101 Stat. 7 (1987) (codified as 33 U.S.C. § 1342(p)). Section 402(p)(2) mandates permits for stormwater discharges "associated with industrial activity," those from municipal storm sewer systems, and those that contribute to water quality violations or are "significant contributor[s] of pollutants." 33 U.S.C. § 1342(D)(2). In addition, section 402(p)(6) requires the EPA to designate other sources of stormwater pollution and "establish a comprehensive program to regulate" these discharges. Id. § 1342(p)(6). In 1990, the EPA issued regulations for the discharges identified in 402(p)(2), referred to as the "Phase I" regulations. 55 Fed.Reg. 47,990 (Nov. 16, 1990). The regulations were challenged and, for the most part, upheld by the Ninth Circuit. American Mining Cong. v. EPA 965 F.2d 759, 762 (9th Cir. 1992); NRDC v. EPA, 966 F.2d 1292, 1295 (9th Cir.1992). In 1999, the EPA issued the regulations for the remaining sources in section 402(p)(6), also referred to as the "Phase II" regulations. 64 Fed.Reg. 68,722 (Dec. 8,1999). Once again, the regulations were mostly upheld by the Ninth Circuit against challenges. Environmental Def. Ctr. v. EPA 319...

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8 practice notes
  • Pennsylvania Mun. Authorities Ass'n v. Horinko, No. CIV.A. 02-01361(HHK).
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    ...apparently intend to "creat[e] such a seemingly irrational bifurcated system." Id; see also Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1113 (N.D.Cal.2003) ("The Supreme Court has made clear that circuit court jurisdiction under [§ 1369(b)(1)(F)] extends to actions that ......
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    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 12, 2013
    ...courts in the Ninth Circuit, including one in this District, have followed the rule. See Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1122 (N.D.Cal.2003) ( “When ‘an agency's actions show that it has not merely republished an existing rule ... but has reconsidered the rul......
  • Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 03-74795.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 23, 2008
    ...court's analysis in a suit very similar to the one before us. In Environmental Protection Information Center v. Pacific Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1108-09 (N.D.Cal.2003), the court addressed an EPA regulation that permanently exempted an entire class of silvicultural discharges from an......
  • Oceana, Inc. v. Bryson, No. C-11-6257 EMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 12, 2013
    ...courts in the Ninth Circuit, including one in this District, have followed the rule. See Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F. Supp. 2d 1101, 1122 (N.D.Page 19Cal. 2003) ("When 'an agency's actions show that it has not merely republished an existing rule . . . but has reconside......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Pennsylvania Mun. Authorities Ass'n v. Horinko, No. CIV.A. 02-01361(HHK).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 20, 2003
    ...apparently intend to "creat[e] such a seemingly irrational bifurcated system." Id; see also Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1113 (N.D.Cal.2003) ("The Supreme Court has made clear that circuit court jurisdiction under [§ 1369(b)(1)(F)] extends to actions that ......
  • Oceana, Inc. v. Bryson, No. C–11–6257 EMC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 12, 2013
    ...courts in the Ninth Circuit, including one in this District, have followed the rule. See Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1122 (N.D.Cal.2003) ( “When ‘an agency's actions show that it has not merely republished an existing rule ... but has reconsidered the rul......
  • Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 03-74795.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 23, 2008
    ...court's analysis in a suit very similar to the one before us. In Environmental Protection Information Center v. Pacific Lumber Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1108-09 (N.D.Cal.2003), the court addressed an EPA regulation that permanently exempted an entire class of silvicultural discharges from an......
  • Oceana, Inc. v. Bryson, No. C-11-6257 EMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 12, 2013
    ...courts in the Ninth Circuit, including one in this District, have followed the rule. See Envtl. Prot. Info. Ctr. v. Pac. Lumber Co., 266 F. Supp. 2d 1101, 1122 (N.D.Page 19Cal. 2003) ("When 'an agency's actions show that it has not merely republished an existing rule . . . but has reconside......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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