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Law School Case Brief

E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Train - 430 U.S. 112, 97 S. Ct. 965 (1977)


Section 509(b)(1) (33 U.S.C.S. 1369(b)(1)) of the of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Act), as added and amended by § 2 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, 33 U.S.C.S. § 1251 et seq., provides that review of the administrator's action in approving or promulgating any effluent limitation under section 301 of the Act may be had in the courts of appeals. On the other hand, the Act does not provide for judicial review of § 304 of the Act's guidelines.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which was empowered by § 501(a) of The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 to make “such regulations as are necessary to carry out” its functions, promulgated industry wide regulations imposing three sets of limitations on petitioner inorganic chemical manufacturers' discharges of pollutants into waters. The first two imposed progressively higher levels of pollutant control on existing point sources after July 1, 1977 and after July 1, 1983. The third set imposed limits on "new sources" that may be constructed in the future. Petitioner manufacturers filed both a suit in the District Court to set aside the regulations and a petition for review of the regulations in the Court of Appeals, contending that § 301 of the Act was not an independent source of authority for setting effluent limitations by regulation but was merely a description of such limitations which were set for each plant on an individual basis during the permit-issuance process, and that § 402 provided the only authority for issuance of enforceable limitations on the discharge of pollutants by existing plants. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the suit to set aside the regulations on the ground that the Court of Appeals had exclusive jurisdiction to consider the validity of the regulations, and held on the petition for review that the EPA was authorized to issue "presumptively applicable" effluent limitations and new source standards, and was required to provide a variance procedure for new sources. Petitioner sought certiorari review.


  1. Was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized to issue “presumptively applicable” effluent limitations and new source standards?
  2. Did the Court of Appeals have exclusive jurisdiction to consider the validity of the regulations?


1) Yes. 2) Yes.


The Court held that the EPA has authority under § 301 to limit discharges by existing plants through industry wide regulations setting forth uniform effluent limitations for both 1977 and 1983, provided some allowance is made for variations in individual plants. According to the Court, both the language of § 301 and the legislative history of the Amendments supported the view that § 301 limitations were to be adopted by the Administrator, that they were to be based primarily on classes and categories, and that they were to take the form of regulations. Anent the second issue, the Court held that §509(b)(1)(E) unambiguously authorized court of appeals’ review of EPA action promulgating an effluent limitation for existing point sources under § 301, and the reference in § 509(b)(1)(E) to § 301 was not intended only to provide for review of the grant or denial of an individual variance under § 301(c). The Court averred that since effluent limitations were typically promulgated in the same proceeding as the new-source standards under § 306, there was no doubt that Congress intended review of the two sets of regulations to be had in the same forum.

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