Ford Motor Co. v. U.S. E.P.A., 76-1463

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Citation567 F.2d 661
Docket NumberNo. 76-1463,76-1463
Parties, 8 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,082 FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Respondent, and State of Michigan, Intervenor.
Decision Date06 December 1977

Page 661

567 F.2d 661
11 ERC 1018, 8 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,082
State of Michigan, Intervenor.
No. 76-1463.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued June 21, 1977.
Decided Dec. 6, 1977.

Page 662

H. Edward Dunkelberger, Jr., Theodore L. Garrett, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Robert V. Zener, Gen. Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency, Ray E. McDevitt, Alfred Ghiorzi, Pat Mulloy, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Before WEICK and ENGEL, Circuit Judges, and WEINMAN, Senior District Judge.*

WEICK, Circuit Judge.

The principal question before us is whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) properly vetoed modifications in Ford Motor Company's (Ford) existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit which were proposed by the Michigan Water Resource Commission (MWRC) pursuant to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (FWPCA) §§ 101, et seq., 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251, et seq. Ford has petitioned for review of EPA's veto of the permit modifications. We hold that the veto of EPA was invalid because it was not based upon any published regulation or guideline or on any express statutory provision.


In order fully to understand the issues, a review of the pertinent provisions of the FWPCA is necessary. Congress declared that the objective of the Act was "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation's waters" § 101(a), 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a). One of the national goals of the Act was to eliminate by 1985 "the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters." § 101(a)(1). Furthermore, Congress proclaimed by the Act its policy to have the States participate in the prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution. § 101(b). Congress also stressed the need for public participation "in the development, revision and enforcement of any regulation, standard, effluent limitation, plan or program established by the Administrator or any State" and required the publication of "regulations specifying minimum guidelines for public participation in such processes." § 101(e).

The Supreme Court in EPA v. State Water Resources Control Bd., 426 U.S. 200, 204-05, 96 S.Ct. 2022, 2024-25, 48 L.Ed.2d 578 (1976), noted one of the purposes of the Act:

First, the Amendments are aimed at achieving maximum "effluent limitations" on "point sources," as well as achieving acceptable water quality standards. A point source is "any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance . . . from which pollutants are or may be discharged."9 An "effluent limitation" in turn is "any restriction established by a State or the Administrator on quantities, rates, and concentrations of chemical, physical, biological, and other constituents which are discharged from point sources . . . including schedules of

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compliance."10 Such direct restrictions on discharges facilitate enforcement by making it unnecessary to work backward from an overpolluted body of water to determine which point sources are responsible and which must be abated. In addition, a discharger's performance is now measured against strict technology-based 11 effluent limitations specified levels of treatment to which it must conform, rather than against limitations derived from water quality standards to which it and other polluters must collectively conform.12

The EPA Administrator was required after consultation with the appropriate federal and state agencies and other interested persons, to adopt regulations providing guidelines for effluent limitations no later than October 18, 1973 and annually thereafter. § 304(b)(2), 33 U.S.C. § 1314(b)(2). Once these guidelines were provided they were to be followed when NPDES permits were issued and were "to serve as the basis of the administrator's veto of objectionable permits." CPC Int'l, Inc. v. Train, 515 F.2d 1032, 1039 (8th Cir. 1975). Compare E. I. duPont deNemours & Co. v. Train, 430 U.S. 112, 133, n. 24, 97 S.Ct. 965, 51 L.Ed.2d 204 (1977).

The EPA Administrator also was authorized to promulgate effluent limitations for classes and categories of existing point sources which necessarily serve as a basis for denial of a permit. See § 301, 33 U.S.C. § 1311; E. I. duPont deNemours & Co. v. Train, supra; and American Iron and Steel Inst. v. EPA, 526 F.2d 1027, 1041 (3d Cir. 1975).

The Court in the duPont case explained at 130 of 430 U.S., at 976 of 97 S.Ct. the function of the § 304(b) guidelines and at the same time their relation to § 301 regulations:

As we noted earlier, § 304(b) requires EPA to identify the amount of effluent reduction attainable through use of the best practicable or available technology and to "specify factors to be taken into account" in determining the pollution control methods "to be applicable to point sources . . . within such categories or classes." These guidelines are to be issued "(f)or the purpose of adopting or revising effluent limitations under this Act." As we read it, § 304 requires that the guidelines survey the practicable or available pollution control technology for an industry and assess its effectiveness. The guidelines are then to describe the methodology EPA intends to use in the § 301 regulations to determine the effluent limitations for particular plants. (footnote omitted)

Congress also provided a plan for implementing water quality standards, which addressed the problem of concentration of pollutants in particular bodies of water, to meet the purposes and goals of the FWPCA.

Section 303(a), 33 U.S.C. § 1313(a) provides for state-adopted water quality standards including those state standards adopted prior to the FWPCA, which standards meet the requirements of the FWPCA unless otherwise determined by the EPA Administrator. For instance, on September 21, 1973 the State of Michigan, pursuant to the FWPCA, approved new water quality standards which went into effect on December 12, 1973. Michigan Water Quality Standards, Michigan Administrative Code

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Part 4; Rule 323.1041, et seq. Because EPA took no action on the Michigan standards, they became the federal water quality standards in that state. See § 303(c)(3), 33 U.S.C. § 1313(c)(3).

Moreover, the EPA Administrator, after issuing notice and holding a public hearing, has authority to establish more restrictive effluent limitations to "discharges of pollutants from a point source or group of point sources" which (even though the effluent limitations under § 301(b)(2) (best available control technology) are applied to the point sources) would still be interfering "with the attainment or maintenance of that water quality in a specific portion of the navigable waters . . .". § 302(a) and (b), 33 U.S.C. § 1312(a) and (b).

The Supreme Court in the State Water Resources case also explained a second purpose of the FWPCA, 426 U.S. at 205, 96 S.Ct. at 2025:

Second, the Amendments establish the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) 13 as a means of achieving and enforcing the effluent limitations. Under NPDES, it is unlawful for any person to discharge a pollutant without obtaining a permit and complying with its terms.14 An NPDES permit serves to transform generally applicable effluent limitations and other standards including those based on water quality into the obligations (including a timetable for compliance) of the individual discharger, and the Amendments provide for direct administrative and judicial enforcement of permits. §§ 309 and 505, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1319, 1365 (1970 ed., Supp. IV). With few exceptions, for enforcement purposes a discharger in compliance with the terms and conditions of an NPDES permit is deemed to be in compliance with those sections of the Amendments on which the permit conditions are based. § 402(k), 33 U.S.C. § 1342(k) (1970 ed., Supp. IV). In short, the permit defines, and facilitates compliance with and enforcement of, a preponderance of a discharger's obligations under the Amendments.

EPA is empowered by Congress to issue these permits. § 402, 33 U.S.C. § 1342. However, the Act also provides that these permits may be issued by the States. If a State desires to administer the program pursuant to the Congressional policy of State control over water pollution, EPA must first approve the State's permit program. See § 402(b). Once the Administrator's approval is given, the State may issue NPDES permits as long as the permits meet the requirements of the FWPCA. Among its duties under the permit program, the State must "provide an opportunity for public hearing before a ruling on each such application (for a permit)" and provide the Administrator with "notice of each application (including a copy thereof) for a permit." § 402(b)(3) and (4). On October 17, 1973 the EPA Administrator approved the permit program of the State of Michigan. 39 F.R. 26061 (July 16, 1974).

In addition to EPA's possible withdrawal of its approval of a State's permit program under § 402(c), EPA also retains a veto power over a State's issuance of an individual permit. Section 402(d)(2)(B) provides:

No permit shall issue . . . if the Administrator within ninety days of the date of transmittal of the proposed permit by the State objects in writing to the issuance of such permit as being outside the guidelines and requirements of (the Act). (Emphasis added)

The aggrieved party has ninety days from the date of denial of the permit under § 402 in which to seek review of the Administrator's action, by petition therefor filed in the appropriate United States Court of Appeals. § 509(B)(1) (F), 33 U.S.C. § 1369(b)(1)(F).

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Ford operates a stamping plant in Monroe, Michigan. Each day the plant produces 40,000 steel automobile wheels, 16,000 bumpers and numerous coil springs. The plant discharges into the Raisin River less than one mile above the river's point of entry into Lake Erie,...

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