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Committee for a Better Arvin v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 20, 2015

COMMITTEE FOR A BETTER ARVIN, a California nonprofit corporation; COMITE RESIDENTES ORGANIZADOS AL SERVICIO DEL AMBIENTE SANO, an unincorporated association; ASSOCIATION OF IRRITATED RESIDENTS, an unincorporated association, Petitioners,
v.
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY; LISA P. JACKSON, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; JARED BLUMENFELD, Regional Administrator, Region IX, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Respondents, SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY UNIFIED AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT, Respondent-Intervenor. COMMITTEE FOR A BETTER ARVIN, a California nonprofit corporation; COMITE RESIDENTES ORGANIZADOS AL SERVICIO DEL AMBIENTE SANO, an unincorporated association; ASSOCIATION OF IRRITATED RESIDENTS, an unincorporated association, Petitioners,
v.
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY; GINA MCCARTHY, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; JARED BLUMENFELD, Regional Administrator, Region IX, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Respondents, SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY UNIFIED AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT, Respondent-Intervenor

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California: October 22, 2014.

Page 1170

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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On Petition for Review of an Order of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

SUMMARY[*]

Environmental Law

The panel granted in part, and denied in part, a petition for review brought by several environmental and community organizations challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's approval of California's State Implementation Plans to comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards enacted under the federal Clean Air Act, concerning ozone and fine particulate matter in the San Joaquin Valley.

The panel held that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by approving California's plans even though the plans did not include the state-adopted mobile emissions standards on which those plans relied to achieve their emission reduction goals. The panel further held that the EPA did not violate the Clean Air Act by not requiring inclusion of other state mechanisms in its plans. The panel also held that other control measures approved by the EPA were enforceable commitments as the Clean Air Act required. The panel remanded to the EPA for further proceedings.

Brent Newell (argued), Sofia L. Parino, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, San Francisco, California; Laura Baker, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Delano, California, for Petitioners.

Heather E. Gange (argued), Ignacia S. Moreno, Dustin J. Maghamfar, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; Jeanhee Hong, Jefferson Wehling, United States Environmental Protection Agency, San Francisco, California; Jan Tierney, Geoffrey L. Wilcox, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., for Respondents.

Annette A. Ballatore-Williamson (argued), Catherine T. Redmond, San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, Fresno, California, for Respondent-Intervenor.

Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Alex Kozinski and Ronald M. Gould, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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GOULD, Circuit Judge:

Petitioners, a contingent of environmental and community groups, bring serious challenges to the State of California's plans to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, an area with some of the worst air quality in the United States. We must consider whether these state plans are sufficient in law, specifically, whether the regulating United States Environmental Protection Agency (" EPA" ) erred in approving California's State Implementation Plans (" SIPs" ) to comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (" NAAQS" ) enacted under the federal Clean Air Act (" CAA" ) concerning ozone and fine particulate matter in the San Joaquin Valley. We do this in the context of a cooperative federalism regime in which the federal agency sets required air quality standards but the state is a primary actor in creating plans to achieve them, followed by potential enforcement at both state and federal levels and by private citizens.

Petitioners contend: (1) that the approved plans calculate the necessary emissions reductions and forecasts in part based on state-adopted measures that are not themselves incorporated into the federally enforceable plan, in violation of the CAA; (2) that other strategies to gain compliance with the NAAQS proposed by the California Air Resources Board (" CARB" ) and Intervenor San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District (" the District" ) that are in the EPA-approved plans are unenforceable goals, rather than the enforceable commitments that the CAA requires; (3) that EPA unlawfully approved the plan relating to ozone insofar as that plan lacked enforceable transportation control measures; and (4) that the D.C. Circuit's holding in NRDC v. EPA, 706 F.3d 428, 403 U.S. App.D.C. 378 (D.C. Cir. 2013), that EPA relied on the wrong statutory provision of the CAA in crafting its fine particulate matter implementation rule, pursuant to which the fine particulate matter plan at issue was approved, gives another important reason to grant the petition.

We hold that by approving California's plans even though the plans did not include the state-adopted mobile emissions standards on which those plans rely to achieve their emissions reductions goals, EPA violated the CAA. We also hold that EPA did not violate the CAA by not requiring inclusion of other state mechanisms in its plans, and that other control measures approved by EPA are enforceable commitments as the CAA requires.[1]

I

States and the federal government must work together to improve air quality for individuals nationwide. This is so because the CAA has established a uniquely important system of cooperative federalism in the quest for clean air. " The CAA makes the States and the Federal Government partners in the struggle against air pollution." Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control Dist., 644 F.3d 934, 938 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Gen. Motors Corp. v. United States, 496 U.S. 530, 532, 110 S.Ct. 2528, 110 L.Ed.2d 480 (1990) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The CAA protects the nation's air quality by authorizing EPA to establish NAAQS that apply to air pollutants. 42 U.S.C. § 7409.[2] EPA designates

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areas that fail to attain the NAAQS as " nonattainment areas." Id. § 7407(d)(1).

A

The CAA requires states to address nonattainment areas by developing a SIP that lays out a plan for how a nonattainment area will eventually comply with the NAAQS. 42 U.S.C. § § 7407(a), 7410. After public notice and hearings, a state must adopt the SIP and submit it to EPA for review and approval. Id. § 7410(a). EPA must then act on the SIP, approving or disapproving it in part or in whole. 42 U.S.C. § 7410(k)(3). Once approved by EPA, a " SIP bec[o]me[s] federal law . .., and c[annot] be changed unless and until EPA approve[s] any change." Safe Air for Everyone v. EPA, 488 F.3d 1088, 1097 (9th Cir. 2007) (emphasis ...


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