Pronsolino v. Nastri

291 F.3d 1123 (9th Cir. 2002)

  • The Clean Water Act 303(d) requires that States establish total maximum daily loadings (TMDLs) for pollutants. By looking at all the pollutants entering a body of water from all sources, TMDLs are supposed to permit a comprehensive assessment of what reductions are necessary to achieve water quality standards/
    • EPA interpreted 303(d) to include pollutant loadings from all sources, including non-point sources and natural background.
  • Pursuant to 303(d), California proffered a list of TMDLs. EPA rejected the list because it omitted 16 bodies of water than were being polluted solely by non-point sources.
  • EPA told California to establish TMDLs that required a 60% reduction in sediment loadings.
    • The issue was that logging, forestry and agricultural activity was making a lot of mud that was draining into and clouding up the rivers to the point where it was killing fish and aquatic plants.
  • California complied with EPA. They were sued by a variety of agricultural groups from the Garcia River valley.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the TMDLs and found that EPA did not exceed its authority.
    • Most other parts of the Clean Water Act distinguish between point sources and non-point sources, but the Appellate Court found that 303(d) should be read to include both.
      • The Court noted that in the Clean Water Act, point sources and non-point sources are treated differently for many purposes, but not all. Since 303(d) makes no such distinction, a distinction should not be inferred by reading other parts of the Act.
      • In fact, 303(d)(1)(A) explicitly requires that waters be listed if they are impaired by a combination of point and non-point sources.
        • How could EPA be required to list waters impaired by non-point sources of pollution without having the ability to regulate those sources under 303(d)(1)(C)?
    • The Court did not buy the argument that because EPA had not enforced the TMDL in this manner in the past, that doesn't mean that they were estopped from enforcing it now.
  • This case represented an expansion of how EPA interpreted the 303(d) TMDL limits. Prior to this case, EPA had made a distinction between point source and non-point source pollution and had not enforced TMDLs on bodies for water solely polluted by non-point sources.