Hercules, Inc. v. E.P.A.

Decision Date03 November 1978
Docket NumberNos. 77-1248,77-1349,s. 77-1248
Citation598 F.2d 91,194 U.S.App.D.C. 172
Parties, 194 U.S.App.D.C. 172, 8 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,811 HERCULES INCORPORATED, Petitioner, v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Respondent. VELSICOL CHEMICAL CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. Douglas M. COSTLE, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Respondent.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Roberts B. Owen, Washington, D. C., with whom Theodore L. Garrett, Washington, D. C., was on the brief, for petitioner in No. 77-1248.

Charles A. O'Connor, III, Washington, D. C., with whom Kenneth W. Weinstein and Joe G. Hollingsworth, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for petitioner in No. 77-1349.

James W. Gentry, Jr., Chattanooga, Tenn., also entered an appearance for appellant in No. 77-1349.

Alan W. Eckert and Lorraine Chang, Attys., Environmental Protection Agency and William L. Want, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., with whom James W. Moorman, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Justice and Ridgway M. Hall, Jr., Associate Gen. Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for respondents.

Robert V. Zener, Atty., Environmental Protection Agency and Peter R. Taft, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., also entered an appearance for respondents.

                                             TABLE OF CONTENTS
                                                                                        Page
                  I.  FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS........................................ 98
                      A. Factual Background.............................................. 98
                      B. Proceedings..................................................... 99
                 II.  APPLICABLE LAW.................................................... 100
                III.  SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES CONCERNING TOXAPHENE........................... 103
                      A. Claims of the Parties.......................................... 103
                      B. Statutory Issues............................................... 104
                      C. Scope of Review................................................ 106
                      D. Adequacy of the Basis for EPA's Regulations.................... 107
                         1. EPA's policy judgments...................................... 107
                         2. EPA's factual determinations leading to the numerical
                            standard.................................................... 109
                 IV.  SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES CONCERNING ENDRIN.............................. 110
                      A. Statutory Issues............................................... 110
                      B. Review of the Support for EPA's Policy Determinations.......... 114
                         1. Application factor.......................................... 114
                         2. Mixing zone factor.......................................... 115
                  V.  PROCEDURAL ISSUES................................................. 117
                      A. Applicable Standards Under the Administrative Procedure
                         Act............................................................ 117
                      B. Reliance by the Administrator on Staff Assistance.............. 119
                         1. Background.................................................. 119
                         2. Administrator's reliance on proposed findings and
                            conclusions................................................. 122
                         3. Contacts between judicial officer and rulemaking staff
                      C. Omission of the Tentative Decision............................. 128
                 VI.  COMPLIANCE TIME................................................... 130
                VII.  CONCLUSION........................................................ 131
                

Before BAZELON, TAMM and ROBINSON, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the court filed by TAMM, Circuit Judge.

TAMM, Circuit Judge:

We are called upon in these consolidated cases to review challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) first regulations limiting discharges into the nation's waterways of two toxic substances, toxaphene and endrin, under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments. 1 For the reasons that follow, we uphold EPA's regulations.

I. FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS.
A. Factual Background.

Endrin is a chlorinated hydrocarbon first introduced about 1950. 2 It has been used as a pesticide for several decades, and is currently used for pest control on crops including cotton and sugar cane. At present, there is only one domestic manufacturer of endrin, Velsicol Chemical Corp. (Velsicol), which produces three to six million pounds a year. 42 Fed.Reg. 2595, 2600 (1977). Its endrin manufacturing plant is located at Memphis, Tennessee, and its discharges eventually reach the Mississippi River and are carried through the lower Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Evidence concerning the dangers of endrin to public health and the environment has been produced over the years since endrin was first introduced. In 1965, results from a study using rats suggested that it was carcinogenic. See 41 Fed.Reg. 31316 (1976). 3 EPA has found that endrin has caused fifty-two reported fish and wildlife kills, largely the result of leakage or runoff during agricultural use. 4 Id. at 31317. However, a massive fish kill in the lower Mississippi in 1963 was traced to discharges from Velsicol's Memphis plant. 42 Fed.Reg. 2591. Endrin is suspected in particular of threatening the brown pelican, an endangered species sensitive to endrin. 42 Fed.Reg. 2591; 41 Fed.Reg. 31317.

Regulatory authorities have taken a number of steps to control endrin. The Food and Drug Administration has established a ceiling on endrin levels in food. 42 Fed.Reg. 2591. Velsicol discharged, on the average, approximately seven pounds of endrin per day in the mid-1960's, Joint Appendix (App.) I 182, but, under public and governmental pressure, it has taken steps to reduce this discharge. In June 1974, EPA issued Velsicol a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit allowing an average daily discharge of no more than one pound of endrin. 5 Velsicol failed to reduce its endrin discharge below an average of 2.5 pounds per day in 1975, App. I 184, and it was found in violation of its permit and was subject to civil penalties. United States v. Velsicol Chemical Corp., 9 ERC (BNA) 1723 (W.D.Tenn.1976). Under the regulations now under review, Velsicol is required to limit its discharge to approximately .005 pounds of endrin per day. 42 Fed.Reg. 2594 & n.1.

Toxaphene is also a chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide. It has been used for several decades, and is currently used for pest control on cotton and livestock. In the recent past, toxaphene was produced by four manufacturers. See 41 Fed.Reg. 23590 (1976). Hercules, Inc. (Hercules) contends that it is now the only manufacturer that discharges any toxaphene into waterways, and thus, the only manufacturer affected by these regulations. 6 In 1975, total domestic production of toxaphene was approximately one hundred million pounds. App. I 205-11. Hercules' toxaphene manufacturing plant is located at Brunswick, Georgia, and its discharge flows into the Brunswick Estuary, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.

Evidence concerning the danger of toxaphene to public health and the environment, particularly to fish, has been produced in the years since the chemical was first introduced. Application of toxaphene to agricultural land surrounding several bird refuges resulted in massive bird kills in 1960-62. App. I 157. Toxaphene was identified as a cause of fish kills because of the characteristic "broken back" syndrome it produces in fish. In 1969, strobane, a pesticide closely related to toxaphene, was identified as a carcinogen in mice. App. I 148. Toxaphene has been frequently found in clarified and treated municipal drinking water. App. I 152.

Prior to 1970, Hercules' plant operated without a pollution treatment system; and, as Hercules concedes, its discharge "had an adverse effect upon the ecology" of local waters. Brief for Petitioner Hercules at 4. Subsequently, Hercules received an NPDES permit from the State of Georgia limiting its allowable toxaphene discharge. By 1975, Hercules reduced its average discharges of toxaphene to .27 pounds per day. App. I 206. Under the regulations now on review, Hercules is required to reduce its discharges to approximately .00375 pounds per day. 42 Fed.Reg. 2606 & n.2.

B. Proceedings.

The early attempts of EPA to limit discharges of toxic substances are described in the opinion of this court in EDF v. EPA (PCBs), 194 U.S.App.D.C. --- at --- - ---, 598 F.2d 62, at 68-70 (1978), decided today, and thus, there is no need to repeat that saga in detail. Endrin and toxaphene were on EPA's July 1973 proposed list of toxic substances and its September 1973 final list. 38 Fed.Reg. 18044, 24342 (1973). In December 1973, EPA proposed standards for endrin and toxaphene, 38 Fed.Reg. 35388 (1973); but after the 1974 hearings, EPA failed to issue final standards.

After the 1974 hearings, EPA subjected endrin and toxaphene to further investigation and analysis. EPA conducted its own experiments concerning the effects of endrin and toxaphene on a variety of species at its National Environmental Research Laboratory in Gulf Breeze, Florida. 7 Based on these experiments and on other studies, the Chief of the Criterion Branch of EPA's Office of Water Planning and Standards, Dr. Leonard J. Guarraia, prepared Criteria Documents summarizing the available information on endrin and toxaphene. On June 10, 1976, EPA proposed standards for endrin and toxaphene. 41 Fed.Reg. 23576 (1976). The standards were of two kinds: Concentration limitations on the concentration of pollutant allowed in the discharges, and Mass limitations on the amount of pollutant allowed in the discharges. For endrin, the proposed concentration limitation was 1.5 parts per billion, and the proposed mass limitation was 0.0003 kg/kkg (kilogram (kg.)/thousand (kilo) kilogram (kkg.)) of endrin produced. 41 Fed.Reg. 23595. For toxaphene, the proposed concentration limitation was 1.5...

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