State of Wash., Dept. of Ecology v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 83-7763

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore WRIGHT, PREGERSON and CANBY; CANBY
Citation752 F.2d 1465
Parties, 53 USLW 2408, 15 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,221 STATE OF WASHINGTON, DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY; Lee Thomas, * Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Ernesta B. Barnes, Regional Administrator of Region X of the Environmental Protection Agency, Respondent.
Decision Date06 February 1985
Docket NumberNo. 83-7763

Page 1465

752 F.2d 1465
22 ERC 1810, 53 USLW 2408, 15 Envtl.
L. Rep. 20,221
STATE OF WASHINGTON, DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY; Lee Thomas,
* Acting Administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency; and Ernesta B. Barnes, Regional
Administrator of Region X of the Environmental Protection
Agency, Respondent.
No. 83-7763.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Sept. 6, 1984.
Decided Feb. 6, 1985.

Page 1466

Charles B. Roe, Jr., Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Olympia, Wash., for petitioner.

David Dearing, Lee R. Tyner, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Ziontz, Pirtle, Morisset, Ernstoff & Chestnut, amicus curiae.

Petition for Review of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Before WRIGHT, PREGERSON and CANBY, Circuit Judges.

CANBY, Circuit Judge:

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq., creates a comprehensive federal program of hazardous waste management administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). RCRA also authorizes the states to develop and implement their own hazardous waste management programs "in lieu of" the federal program. This case presents the question whether EPA violated the requirements of RCRA when it refused to permit the State of Washington to apply its state hazardous waste regulations to the activities of all persons, Indians and non-Indians, on "Indian lands." We conclude that EPA has adopted a reasonable interpretation of RCRA and we therefore affirm the agency's decision.

I

RCRA requires EPA to promulgate regulations governing the generation, transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes. RCRA Secs. 3002-3004, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 6922-6924. EPA also must establish a permit system covering all hazardous waste facilities, to enforce the regulations. RCRA Sec. 3005, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6925. The RCRA requirements apply to all persons. See RCRA Sec. 3008, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6928. The statute defines "person" to include, inter alia, Indian tribes. See RCRA Sec. 1004, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 6903(15), 6903(13).

Like several other federal environmental statutes, RCRA provides a mechanism by which the states can administer their own hazardous waste programs "in lieu of the Federal program." RCRA Sec. 3006, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6926. The state must apply to the EPA Administrator for authorization to implement its own program. The Administrator is required to authorize a state program on an interim basis if the state demonstrates that the program is "substantially equivalent" to the federal program. RCRA Sec. 3006(c), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6926(c). The Administrator authorizes a permanent state program when he determines that the program is "equivalent" to the federal program, consistent with the federal program and other state programs, and adequately enforceable. RCRA Sec. 3006(b), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6926(b). If a state chooses not to set up its own program, or if the Administrator decides that the state does not qualify for

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authorization, EPA continues to administer the federal program in that state. Where a state program is in effect, EPA retains certain oversight and enforcement powers, including the power to withdraw authorization if the state program fails to comply with the federal requirements. RCRA Sec. 3006(e), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6926(e); see 42 U.S.C. Secs. 6928(a), 6934, 6973(a).

On May 3, 1982, the Governor of the State of Washington submitted an application for interim authorization pursuant to Section 3006(c). The complete application included an analysis by the Washington Attorney General of the state's authority over activities on Indian lands, as required by 40 C.F.R. 123.125(c) (recodified at 40 C.F.R. 271.125(c) (1984)). The Attorney General's analysis asserted that RCRA authorizes the State of Washington to regulate the hazardous waste-related activities of Indians on reservation lands. After the requisite review and public comment, EPA approved Washington's application for interim authorization "except as to Indian lands." 48 Fed.Reg. 34954 (1983). With respect to Indian lands, EPA concluded that the state had not adequately demonstrated its legal authority to exercise jurisdiction. Id. at 34957. EPA found that RCRA does not give the state jurisdiction over Indian lands, and that states could possess such jurisdiction only through an express act of Congress or by treaty. Id. Since Washington had cited no independent authority for its jurisdictional claim, EPA retained jurisdiction to operate the federal hazardous waste management program "on Indian lands in the State of Washington." Id. 1

Washington now petitions this court for review of EPA's decision to exclude Indian lands from the approved state program, arguing that the agency misinterpreted RCRA. The state points out that RCRA applies to all persons and all geographic areas, including Indians and Indian tribes. The statute expressly preserves the power of "any State or political subdivision thereof (to impose) any requirements ... which are more stringent than those imposed by (federal) regulations." RCRA Sec. 3009, 42 U.S.C. 6929. Since tribal regulatory powers are not expressly preserved, the state argues that RCRA has eliminated such tribal powers, and that only the federal government and the individual states have authority to implement the RCRA regulatory program. As between the federal government and the states, Washington contends that the statute expresses a preference for state administration. The statute directs that the "Administrator (of EPA) shall ... grant an interim authorization to the State to carry out (its) program in lieu of the Federal program pursuant to this subchapter" if the state program meets the requirements for authorization. RCRA Sec. 3006(c). Washington concludes that Section 3006 allows a state to enforce its program "in lieu of" the entire federal program in the states including that part applying to Indian country.

It is important at the outset to define the issue raised by the State of Washington's petition. Washington sought EPA authorization to apply its hazardous waste program to both Indian and non-Indian residents of Indian reservations. See 48 Fed.Reg. at 34956. In the Attorney General's analysis of state jurisdiction and again before this court, Washington contended that RCRA confers on the state the right to regulate all hazardous waste activities within the state, with no exceptions for Indian tribes or Indian lands. We hold today that the EPA Regional Administrator properly refused to approve the proposed state program because RCRA does not authorize the states to regulate Indians on

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Indian lands. We do not decide the question whether Washington is empowered to create a program reaching into Indian country when that reach is limited to non-Indians. Contrary to the assumption of amicus State of California, Washington has made clear that it did not present such a program to EPA. Since our function is to review EPA's administrative decision, we will consider only the program that Washington did present. We do not address the legality of other programs that the state might have proposed.
II

Initially we confront the question of our jurisdiction to entertain Washington's petition for review. RCRA gives each Court of Appeals jurisdiction to review an EPA action granting or denying interim authorization to a state within the circuit. RCRA Sec. 7006(b), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6976(b). The statute, however, also provides that "a petition for review of action of the Administrator in promulgating any regulation, or requirement under this chapter ... may be filed only in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and such petition shall be filed within ninety days from the date of such promulgation...." RCRA Sec. 7006(a)(1), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 6976(a)(1). EPA argues that the regulations implementing Section 3006 of RCRA, which set forth procedures for interim authorization applications, established EPA's position that RCRA does not grant states the authority to regulate hazardous wastes on Indian lands. Since Washington did not seek review of those regulations within 90 days of their promulgation in 1980, EPA contends that Section 7006(a)(1) now bars review in this court.

EPA's argument fails because none of the regulations to which it refers sufficiently delineated EPA's present position that RCRA does not provide a source of state authority over Indian lands. The regulations neither alerted Washington to EPA's ultimate position nor dictated the order that Washington now seeks to have this court review. Two sections of the 1980 regulations address the problem of program authorization where a state "lack[s] authority to regulate activities on Indian lands." 40 C.F.R. Sec. 123.1(j); 40 C.F.R. Sec. 123.121(f). 2 Another section requires the state Attorney General to provide "an appropriate analysis of the State's authority" over Indian lands, where the state requests such authority. 40 C.F.R. Sec. 123.125(c) (recodified at 40 C.F.R. Sec. 271.125(c) (1984)). None of these provisions squarely sets forth the interpretation of RCRA that EPA now advances. One could infer from the regulations that RCRA does not generally authorize state jurisdiction on the reservations. Presumably the statements in the regulations would not be necessary if RCRA authorized state jurisdiction in all cases. From the language and context of these regulations, however, it also might reasonably be inferred that EPA did not intend to resolve questions of jurisdiction over Indian lands until those issues were raised in state applications for program authorization. Washington should not now be precluded from challenging the agency's treatment of Washington's application for interim authorization on the ground that the state failed to draw the proper inference from the regulations. Nor is the relief Washington seeks so inconsistent with...

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47 practice notes
  • Federal and Indian lands programs: Indian lands; definition clarification; agency decision,
    • United States
    • Federal Register April 25, 2007
    • April 25, 2007
    ...remand and transfer, No. Civ. 87-1108 JB, 19 Indian L. Rep. 3119 (D.N.M. 1992); and Washington Dep't of Ecology v. United States EPA, 752 F.2d 1465, 1470 (9th Cir. 1985). The Navajo Nation notes that the latter case stated that the trust responsibility ``arose largely from the federal role ......
  • Part III
    • United States
    • Federal Register April 25, 2007
    • April 25, 2007
    ...remand and transfer, No. Civ. 87-1108 JB, 19 Indian L. Rep. 3119 (D.N.M. 1992); and Washington Dep't of Ecology v. United States EPA, 752 F.2d 1465, 1470 (9th Cir. 1985). The Navajo Nation notes that the latter case stated that the trust responsibility ``arose largely from the federal role ......
  • Blue Legs v. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Nos. 87-5433
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 12, 1989
    ...of harm to be avoided, including Indian children playing in dumps on reservations); State of Washington Dep't of Ecology v. E.P.A., 752 F.2d 1465, 1469-71 (1985) (RCRA applies to Indian tribes). It thus seems clear that the text and history of the RCRA clearly indicates congressional intent......
  • State of Mont. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. CV 95-56-M-CCL.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Montana
    • March 27, 1996
    ...expertise and experience when it reconciles its environmental policy with its Indian policy. State of Wash., Dept. of Ecology v. EPA, 752 F.2d 1465, 1469 (deferring to EPA' reconciliation of environmental policy and Indian policy in finding that states lack authority to administer Resource ......
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33 cases
  • Blue Legs v. U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Nos. 87-5433
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 12, 1989
    ...of harm to be avoided, including Indian children playing in dumps on reservations); State of Washington Dep't of Ecology v. E.P.A., 752 F.2d 1465, 1469-71 (1985) (RCRA applies to Indian tribes). It thus seems clear that the text and history of the RCRA clearly indicates congressional intent......
  • State of Mont. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. CV 95-56-M-CCL.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Montana
    • March 27, 1996
    ...expertise and experience when it reconciles its environmental policy with its Indian policy. State of Wash., Dept. of Ecology v. EPA, 752 F.2d 1465, 1469 (deferring to EPA' reconciliation of environmental policy and Indian policy in finding that states lack authority to administer Resource ......
  • Buchwald Capital Advisors, LLC v. Papas (In re Greektown Holdings, LLC), Bankruptcy No. 08–53104.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Tenth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of Michigan
    • August 12, 2014
    ...of harm to be avoided, including Indian children playing in dumps on reservations); State of Washington Dep't of Ecology v. E.P.A., 752 F.2d 1465, 1469–71 (1985) (RCRA applies to Indian tribes). It thus seems clear that the text and history of the RCRA clearly indicates congressional intent......
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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1992
    ...if the agency could also have reached another reasonable interpretation....' " Wyckoff, 796 F.2d at 1200 (quoting Washington v. EPA, 752 F.2d 1465, 1469 (9th Cir.1985)). See also Arkansas v. Oklahoma, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 1046, 1056-57, 117 L.Ed.2d 239 C. Statutory Interpretation S......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Evolving Path Toward Achieving Environmental Justice for Native America
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 40-9, September 2010
    • September 1, 2010
    ...of tribal water quality standards more stringent than federal minimum requirements). 56. See, e.g. , Wash. Dep’t of Ecology v. U.S. EPA, 752 F.2d 1465 (9th Cir. 1985) (upholding EPA’s rejection of a state’s application for hazardous waste regulatory authority over Indian reservations). 57. ......

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