Michigan v. EPA
213 F.3d 663 (D.C. Cir. 2000)

  • Some States were having problems meeting the goals set by the Clean Air Act because pollution emitted in other States was floating over the border and polluting their air.
  • In response, Congress added 110 to the Clean Air Act, which gives the EPA the authority to call for a revision of any State Implementation Plan (SIP) whenever EPA determines that the current plan is "substantially inadequate to attain or maintain the relevant national ambient air quality standard (NAAQSs), or to mitigate adequately the interstate pollutant transport."
    • Basically, EPA was given the authority to reduce a States' emissions not based on the air quality in that State, but based on the air quality in downwind States.
  • EPA invoked 110(k)(5), and told 22 States that they needed to reduce their ozone and NOx emissions by installing all controls that would cost less than $2k to prevent each ton of NOx emitted.
  • A number of States sued, making a number of arguments:
    • EPA acted contrary to past precedent.
      • 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(I) required EPA to act when an upwind State 'contributed significantly' to a downwind State's pollution. Previously, EPA had interpreted that phrase to mean "prevent attainment", but now they were interpreting it to mean "contribute significantly to nonattainment."
    • EPA considered cost, which is a forbidden factor.
    • EPA impermissibly intruded on the statutory right of States to come up with their own SIPs when they mandated NOx emissions controls.
      • EPA can set limits with their NAAQSs, but the States get to decide how they will meet those limits in their SIPs.
    • EPA irrationally imposed uniform standards on all 22 States.
    • EPA violated the nondelegation doctrine because their determination was devoid of intelligible principles.
      • EPA had no particular reason for choosing $2k. They could have chosen another dollar value. Without giving a strong reason for choosing $2k they were being arbitrary and capricious.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed EPA's regulation.
    • The Appellate Court found that there was nothing in the text of 110 to stop EPA from interpreting "significant" in a different method than they had done in the past.
    • The Appellate Court found that EPA had to focus on pollution that contributes "significantly", and that the word should be interpreted to mean "cost effectively." The Court wondered how EPA was to determine what was and wasn't "significant" if they didn't consider costs.
      • The Court looked to an OSHA Statute that had interpreted "significant" as meaning "what can be achieved cost-effectively."
        Compare this ruling to Whitman v. American Trucking Ass'ns (531 U.S. 457 (2001)), in which industry argued that EPA erred when they did not consider costs in coming up with their NAAQSs.
        • The Court found that some Statutes are very clear in that costs cannot be considered, but this Statute was not one of them, so it was ok to consider it.
    • The Appellate Court looked to their previous ruling in Virginia v. EPA (108 F.3d 1397 (D.C. Cir. 1997)), and found that EPA cannot tell States to adopt a specific approach to pollution control. However, the Court found that EPA's NOx program reasonably establishes reduction levels and leaves the control measure selection decision to the States.
      • The NOx plan does not mandate "specific source by source emission limitations", and States that implement alternative control measures will not be penalized so long as they meet their reduction goals.
        • The $2k test was used to figure out what the threshold for NOx emissions should be, but the State had the choice of how to meet that threshold.