Virginia v. EPA
108 F.3d 1397 (D.C. Cir. 1997)

  • Pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the Northeast Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) was formed to help 12 States meet EPA's new national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone.
    • When a NAAQS is approved, the States are required to submit State Implementation Plans (SIPs) detailing how they will comply with the new NAAQS.
    • Since ozone was a regional problem, not a State-specific problem, the OTC was better equipped to deal with the new standards than each individual State was by itself.
      • See Clean Air Act 184.
  • The OTC decided that the region needed to match the California standards for automobile emissions (or implement other more infeasible recommendations).
    • California is the only State that is allowed to have stricter standards than EPA mandates.
  • EPA accepted the OTC's recommendations, and went back to the individual States and told them that their SIPs needed to match the OTC recommendations before they would be approved.
  • The States sued.
    • The States argued that the SIPs they were being asked to approve were a mandate because they did not offer any real alternatives. That technically violates State sovereignty.
  • The Appellate Court overturned the EPA's ruling.
    • The Appellate Court looked to 110 of the Clean Air Act, and found that it does not give EPA the ability to mandate specific pollution control measures.
      • All EPA can do it so set standards, and then the States can meet those standards however they like (see 107(a)). As long as the SIP meets the standard, EPA must approve it.