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Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't

Supreme Court of the United States

October 6, 1997, Argued ; March 4, 1998, Decided

No. 96-643


 [**1008]  [***221]  [*86]    JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This is a private enforcement action under the citizen-suit provision of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), 100 Stat. 1755, 42 U.S.C. § 11046(a)(1). The case presents the merits question, answered in the affirmative by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, whether EPCRA authorizes suits for purely past violations. It also presents the jurisdictional question whether respondent, plaintiff below, has standing to bring this action.

Respondent, an association of individuals interested in environmental protection, sued petitioner, a small manufacturing company in Chicago, for past violations of EPCRA. ] EPCRA establishes a framework of state, regional and local agencies designed to inform the public about the presence of hazardous and toxic chemicals, and to provide for emergency response in the event of health-threatening release. Central to its operation are reporting requirements compelling users of specified toxic and hazardous chemicals to file annual  [*87]  "emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms" and "toxic [***222]   [****8]  chemical release [**1009]  forms," which contain, inter alia, the name and location of the facility, the name and quantity of the chemical on hand, and, in the case of toxic chemicals, the waste-disposal method employed and the annual quantity released into each environmental medium. 42 U.S.C. §§ 11022 and 11023. The hazardous-chemical inventory forms for any given calendar year are due the following March 1st, and the toxic-chemical release forms the following July 1st. §§ 11022(a)(2) and 11023(a).

 Enforcement of EPCRA can take place on many fronts. ] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the most powerful enforcement arsenal: it may seek criminal, civil, or administrative penalties. § 11045. State and local governments can also seek civil penalties, as well as injunctive relief. §§ 11046(a)(2) and (c). For purposes of this case, however, ] the crucial enforcement mechanism is the citizen-suit provision, § 11046(a)(1), which likewise authorizes civil penalties and injunctive relief, see § 11046(c). This provides that "any person may commence a civil action on his own behalf against . . . an owner or operator of a facility for failure," among other things, to "complete and submit [****9]  an inventory form under section 11022(a) of this title . . . [and] section 11023(a) of this title." § 11046(a)(1). As a prerequisite to bringing such a suit, the plaintiff must, 60 days prior to filing his complaint, give notice to the Administrator of the EPA, the State in which the alleged violation occurs, and the alleged violator. § 11046(d). The citizen suit may not go forward if the Administrator "has commenced and is diligently pursuing an administrative order or civil action to enforce the requirement concerned or to impose a civil penalty." § 11046(e).

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523 U.S. 83 *; 118 S. Ct. 1003 **; 140 L. Ed. 2d 210 ***; 1998 U.S. LEXIS 1601 ****; 66 U.S.L.W. 4174; 98 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1512; 98 Daily Journal DAR 2102; 28 ELR 20434; 46 ERC (BNA) 1097; 1998 Colo. J. C.A.R. 1025; 11 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 369



Disposition: 90 F.3d 1237, vacated and remanded.


redressability, merits, cause of action, violations, district court, cases, citizen suit, jurisdictional question, federal court, civil penalty, jurisdictional issue, authorizes, questions, courts, constitutional question, notice, court of appeals, hypothetical, parties, alleged violation, injunctive relief, prosecuted, power of the court, toxic chemical, alleges, damages, case or controversy, injury in fact, framed, costs

Business & Corporate Compliance, Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances, Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances, Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning, Civil Procedure, Pleadings, Complaints, General Overview, Sales of Goods, Title, Creditors & Good Faith Purchasers, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Justiciability, Case & Controversy Requirements, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Standing, Constitutional Law, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Preliminary Considerations, Separation of Powers, Injury in Fact, Elements, Dismissal of Appeals, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss