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Law School Case Brief

Ethyl Corp. v. EPA - 176 U.S. App. D.C. 373, 541 F.2d 1 (D.C. Cir. 1976)


When the Environmental Protection Agency engages in informal rule making, its procedures are conducted pursuant to § 4 of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C.S. § 553, and must be reviewed under 5 U.S.C.S. § 706(2)(A)-(D), § 10 of the APA. The court's review of the evidence is governed by § 10(e)(2)(A) of the APA, which requires the court to strike agency action, findings, and conclusions that it finds to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. This standard of review is a highly deferential one. It presumes agency action to be valid. Moreover, it forbids the court's substituting its judgment for that of the agency, and requires affirmance if a rational basis exists for the agency's decision.


Section 211(c)(1)(A) of the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), 42 U.S.C.S. § 1857f-6c(c)(1)(A), authorizes respondent Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to regulate gasoline additives whose emission products endanger the public health or welfare. Acting pursuant to that power, the EPA, after notice and comment, determined that the automotive emissions caused by leaded gasoline presented a significant risk of harm to the public health. Accordingly, the EPA promulgated regulations ("Regulations") that reduced the lead content of leaded gasoline. Petitioners Ethyl Corporation and several other manufacturers of lead additives and refiners of gasoline filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the Regulations, claiming that that the EPA misinterpreted the statutory standard of "will endanger" under §  and that its application of that standard was without support in the evidence and arbitrary and capricious. A division of the circuit court agreed with petitioners and ordered the Regulations set aside. The circuit court granted the EPA's petition for rehearing en banc.


Did the EPA properly interpret the meaning of § 211(c)(1)(A) and the scope of its power under that statute?




The circuit court affirmed the EPA's decision. The court ruled that EPA properly interpreted the meaning of § 211(c)(1)(A) of the CAA, as well as the scope of its power under that statute, and the evidence adduced at the rule-making proceeding supported its final determination to promulgate the Regulations. The court agreed that the "will endanger" standard in § 211(c)(1)(A) was precautionary in nature and did not require proof of actual harm before regulation was appropriate.

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