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Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

February 29, 1984, Argued ; June 25, 1984, Decided 1

No. 82-1005

Opinion

 [*839]  [***701]  [**2780]    JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977, Pub. L. 95-95, 91 Stat. 685, Congress enacted certain requirements applicable  [*840]  to States that had not achieved the national air quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to earlier legislation. The amended Clean Air Act required these "nonattainment" States to establish a permit program regulating "new or modified major stationary sources" of air pollution. Generally, a permit may not be issued for a new or modified major stationary source unless several stringent conditions are met. 3 The EPA regulation promulgated to implement this permit requirement allows a State to adopt a plantwide definition of the term "stationary source." 4 Under this [****8]  definition, an existing plant that contains several pollution-emitting devices may install or modify one piece of equipment without meeting the permit conditions if the alteration will not increase the total emissions from the plant. The question presented by these cases is whether EPA's decision to allow States to treat all of the pollution-emitting devices within the same industrial grouping as though they were encased within a single "bubble" is based on a reasonable construction of the statutory term "stationary source."

 [****9]  I

The EPA regulations containing the plantwide definition of the term stationary source were promulgated on October  [*841]  14, 1981. 46 Fed. Reg. 50766. Respondents 5 filed a timely petition for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit pursuant to 42 U. S. C. § 7607(b)(1). 6 The Court of Appeals  [**2781]  set aside the regulations. National Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Gorsuch, 222 U. S. App. D. C. 268, 685 F.2d 718 (1982).

The  [***702]  court observed that the relevant part of the [****10]  amended Clean Air Act "does not explicitly define what Congress envisioned as a 'stationary source, to which the permit program . . . should apply," and further stated that the precise issue was not "squarely addressed in the legislative history." Id., at 273, 685 F.2d, at 723. In light of its conclusion that the legislative history bearing on the question was "at best contradictory," it reasoned that "the purposes of the non-attainment program should guide our decision here." Id., at 276, n. 39, 685 F.2d, at 726, n. 39. 7 Based on two of its precedents concerning the applicability of the bubble concept to certain Clean Air Act programs, 8 the court stated that the bubble concept was "mandatory" in programs designed merely to maintain existing air quality, but held that it was "inappropriate" in programs enacted to improve air quality. Id., at 276, 685 F.2d, at 726. Since the purpose of the permit  [*842]  program -- its "raison d'etre," in the court's view -- was to improve air quality, the court held that the bubble concept was inapplicable in these cases under its prior precedents. Ibid. It therefore set aside [****11]  the regulations embodying the bubble concept as contrary to law. We granted certiorari to review that judgment, 461 U.S. 956 (1983), and we now reverse.

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467 U.S. 837 *; 104 S. Ct. 2778 **; 81 L. Ed. 2d 694 ***; 1984 U.S. LEXIS 118 ****; 52 U.S.L.W. 4845; 14 ELR 20507; 21 ERC (BNA) 1049

CHEVRON U.S.A. INC. v. NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC., ET AL.

Subsequent History:  [****1]  As Amended. 

Prior History: CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Disposition:  222 U. S. App. D. C. 268, 685 F.2d 718, reversed.

CORE TERMS

bubble, stationary, plantwide, nonattainment, pollutant, regulations, plant, emissions, new source, emits, cases, air, air quality, clean air, attainment, legislative history, programs, purposes, installation, modified, offset, definition of the term, modifications, accommodate, flexible, policies, terms, air pollution, progress, revised

Environmental Law, Air Quality, Nonattainment Areas, General Overview, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation, Separation of Powers, Legislative Controls, Implicit Delegation of Authority, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Agency Rulemaking, Rule Application & Interpretation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Zoning, Growth Control