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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

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Petitioner company sought review of the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, holding that respondent association could bring a private enforcement action under the citizen-suit provision of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C.S. § 11000 et seq., for purely past violations.

Overview

On review, the court held that the requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter arose from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States under U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, and was inflexible and without exception. The court rejected the practice of assuming jurisdiction for the purpose of deciding a case's merits. The association failed to meet the redressability requirement of standing because none of the relief sought served to compensate the association for losses caused by the company's late reporting or to eliminate any effects of that late reporting. The civil penalties authorized under 42 U.S.C.S. § 11045(c) were not payable to the association but rather to the United States Treasury, and psychic satisfaction with the results of a lawsuit was not an acceptable U.S. Const. art. III remedy because it did not redress a cognizable injury. Nor could the association achieve standing by relying on 42 U.S.C.S. § 11046(f), which authorized reimbursement of the costs of bringing suit. Further, the injunctive relief sought to deter future violations was not redress for past infractions and was insufficient for purposes of Article III.

Outcome

The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions that the complaint be dismissed.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances > Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances > Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning

HN1  Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances, Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C.S. § 11000 et seq., 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. 42 U.S.C.S. § 11046(a)(1). Central to its operation are reporting requirements compelling users of specified toxic and hazardous chemicals to file annual emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms and toxic chemical release 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.S. §§ 11022-11023. 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. 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 11022(a)(2), 11023(a).

 

Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances > Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances > Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning

HN2  Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances, Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning

The Environmental Protection Agency has the most powerful enforcement arsenal: it may seek criminal, civil, or administrative penalties under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C.S. § 11000 et seq. 42 U.S.C.S. § 11045. State and local governments can also seek civil penalties, as well as injunctive relief. 42 U.S.C.S. § 11046(a)(2), (c).

 

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

Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Sales of Goods > Title, Creditors & Good Faith Purchasers > General Overview

HN3  Notification of Existence of Hazardous Substances, Community Right to Know & Emergency Planning

The crucial enforcement mechanism of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C.S. § 11000 et seq., is the citizen-suit provision, 42 U.S.C.S. § 11046(a)(1), which authorizes civil penalties and injunctive relief. 42 U.S.C.S. § 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 an inventory form under 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 11022(a), 11023(a). 43 U.S.C.S. § 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 Environmental Protection Agency, the state in which the alleged violation occurs, and the alleged violator. 42 U.S.C.S. § 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. 42 U.S.C.S. § 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

STEEL COMPANY, AKA CHICAGO STEEL AND PICKLING COMPANY, PETITIONER v. CITIZENS FOR A BETTER ENVIRONMENT

Prior History:  [1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

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