Law School Case Brief
Am. Mining Cong. v. United States EPA - 263 U.S. App. D.C. 197, 824 F.2d 1177 (1987)
Under the precept of ejusdem generis, specific terms are benchmarks for measuring the general term. Congress, in adding the concluding phrase "other discarded material" in 42 U.S.C.S. § 6903(27) of the Resource and Recovery Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 6901-6933, meant to grant the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority over similar types of waste, but not to open up the federal regulatory reach of an entirely new category of materials, in other words, materials neither disposed of nor abandoned, but passing in a continuous stream or flow from one production process to another.
The trade associations challenged the scope of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final reuse and recycling rule, 50 Fed. Reg. 614 (1985), contending that the EPA's authority under Resource and Recovery Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 6901-6933 (RCRA) was limited to controlling materials that were discarded or intended for discard. They argued that the rule, as applied to in-process secondary materials, regulated materials that had not been discarded, and that it therefore exceeded EPA's jurisdiction.
Were in-process secondary materials within the bounds of EPA's authority?
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed, holding that in-process secondary materials were outside the bounds of EPA's authority. Applying the Chevron principles as to statutory interpretation, the court ruled that because Congress granted EPA power to regulate "solid waste" and specifically defined "solid waste" as "discarded material," the definition of "discarded material" promulgated by EPA, which included materials destined for reuse in an industry's ongoing production processes, went too far. The court concluded, in light of Congress' stated objectives for RCRA, that "discarded" was used in its ordinary sense in the statute, that is, to mean "disposed of" or "abandoned." Accordingly, RCRA jurisdiction remained untriggered where nothing had in fact been discarded.
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