Description: Challenge to EPA's decision to suspend the 2015 final rule prohibiting or restricting certain uses of HFCs under Clean Air Act's safe alternatives policy.
Natural Resources Defense Council v. Wheeler
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 04/07/2020 Opinion Download D.C. Circuit Said EPA Decision to Expand Partial Vacatur of HFC Prohibition Required Notice and Comment. In a split decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2018 rule in which EPA decided to expand the D.C. Circuit’s partial vacatur in Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA of a 2015 rule barring replacement of ozone-depleting substances with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are powerful greenhouse gases. In Mexichem, the D.C. Circuit vacated the 2015 rule to the extent that it prohibited continued use of HFCs by companies that previously switched to HFCs from an ozone-depleting substance. EPA’s 2018 rule also suspended the prohibition for companies currently using ozone-depleting substances. In ruling on the challenge to the 2018 rule, the D.C. Circuit concluded that the rule was not merely a rule that interpreted Mexichem’s partial vacatur but a legislative rule that “altered the decision’s legal effect” and required notice-and-comment rulemaking. As a threshold matter, the court found that Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and one of the state petitioners (New York) each had standing based on potential injuries from climate change which were caused in part by HFC emissions and which would be redressed by restrictions on such emissions. In addition, the court found that NRDC satisfied requirements for representational standing. The court also rejected the contention that the 2018 rule was not final action. The court noted that the parties agreed that the 2018 rule was the consummation of EPA’s decision-making process, but that EPA and the intervenors argued that it was Mexichem—not the 2018 rule—that determined any legal rights or obligations or effected legal consequences. The D.C. Circuit disagreed, finding that the 2018 rule changed the rights and obligations of companies that continued to use ozone-depleting substances compared to the status quo created by Mexichem. Similarly, in determining that the 2018 rule was legislative and not interpretive, the majority found that the 2018 rule had “independent effect beyond that compelled by Mexichem” and therefore reflected EPA’s “intent to exercise its delegated legislative power.” The dissenting judge would have found that the 2018 rule was an interpretive rule because it “did no more than articulate the EPA’s view of what was required by Mexichem in the ‘near term’ and pending further rulemaking.” 03/15/2019 Reply Download Reply brief filed by petitioner Natural Resources Defense Council. 03/15/2019 Reply Download Reply brief filed by state petitioners. 03/01/2019 Brief Download Brief filed by intervenors Mexichem Fluor, Inc. and Arkema Inc. 02/15/2019 Brief Download Response brief filed by EPA. 11/07/2018 Brief Download Opening brief filed by NRDC. 11/07/2018 Brief Download Opening brief filed by states. States, D.C., and NRDC Argued That EPA’s Decision Not to Apply HFC Use Restrictions Was Unlawful. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and 11 states and the District of Columbia filed their opening briefs in D.C. Circuit proceedings challenging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance that stated EPA would not apply any restrictions adopted in 2015 on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. The petitioners argued that the guidance turned the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 decision partially vacating the 2015 restrictions (to the extent they required manufacturers currently using HFCs to stop using them) into a “complete vacatur.” NRDC and the states contended that the guidance therefore violated the Clean Air Act by suspending a final regulation without notice-and-comment rulemaking and that the guidance was arbitrary and capricious because EPA failed to provide a reasoned explanation for the suspension of the HFC use restrictions. 06/26/2018 Petition for Review Download Petition for review filed by NRDC States and NRDC Filed Lawsuits Challenging EPA Decision to Suspend Enforcement of HFC Restrictions. NRDC, 11 states, and the District of Columbia filed petitions in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for review of EPA’s decision to suspend the 2015 final rule prohibiting or restricting certain uses of HFCs under the Clean Air Act’s safe alternatives policy. EPA published notice in the April 27, 2018 issue of the Federal Register that it would not apply the final rule’s listings of HFCs as “unacceptable” or as “acceptable subject to narrowed use limits” until it completed a rulemaking addressing the D.C. Circuit’s opinion vacating the portion of the final rule that required manufacturers to replace HFCs with substitutes.
New York v. Pruitt
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/26/2018 Petition for Review Download Petition for review filed by 11 states and District of Columbia.