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Law School Case Brief

Portland Cement Ass'n v. Ruckelshaus - 158 U.S. App. D.C. 308, 486 F.2d 375 (1973)

Rule:

The necessity to review agency decisions, if it is to be more than a meaningless exercise, requires enough steeping in technical matters to determine whether the agency has exercised a reasoned discretion. The court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the agency, but it is the court's duty to consider whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment.

Facts:

Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), codified at 42 U.S.C.S. § 1857c-6 directed the Administrator to promulgate "standards of performance" by new stationary sources constructed or modified after the effective date of pertinent regulations. After the Administrator designated defendant Portland Cement's plants as a stationary source of air pollution, which might have contributed significantly to air pollution and which caused or contributed to the endangerment of public health or welfare, the Administrator published proposed regulations. The cement manufacturers challenged the final regulations because the Administrator had not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, economic costs were not adequately taken into account and unfairly discriminated against Portland Cement plants, and the achievability of the standards were not adequately demonstrated.

Issue:

Can an appellate court substitute its judgment for that of the agency?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals held that there had been a lack of an adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed standards due to the absence of disclosure of detailed findings and procedures of tests conducted by the Administrator. The court held that the necessity to review agency decisions required enough steeping in technical matters to determine whether the Administrator had exercised reasoned discretion.

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