E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Train,
430 U.S. 112 (1977)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Train, 430 U.S. 112 (1977)

E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Train

No. 75-978

Argued December 8, 1976

Decided February 23, 1977*

430 U.S. 112


The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (Amendments) authorized a series of steps to be taken to eliminate all discharges of pollutants into the Nation's waters by 1985. The first steps are described in § 304 of the Act (as added by the Amendments), which directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (the agency charged under § 101 with administering the Amendments) to develop and publish various kinds of technical data as guidelines for carrying out responsibilities under the Amendments. Section 301(a) proscribes the discharge of any pollutant unless the discharge complies with certain sections, including § 301 itself, § 306, and § 402. Section 301(b) defines the effluent limitations that must be achieved for existing "point sources" (conveyances from which pollutants are discharged) in two stages: (1) No later than July 1, 1977, such limitations for point sources must require the application of the "best practicable control technology currently available," and (2) by July 1, 1983, the limitations for "categories and classes of point sources" must require application of the "best available technology economically achievable." Section 301(c) authorizes the EPA Administrator to grant variances for the 1983 limitations for any point source for which a permit application is filed after July 1, 1977. Section 306(b) directs the Administrator to publish regulations establishing national standards for new sources within each category of sources discharging pollutants, and § 306(e) makes it unlawful to operate a new source in violation of the applicable standard. Section 402 authorizes the Administrator to issue permits for individual point sources, and also to review and approve the plan of any State desiring to administer its own permit program. Section 509(b)(1) (E) provides that review of the Administrator's action in approving or promulgating any effluent limitation under § 301 or

Page 430 U. S. 113

§ 306 may be had in the court of appeals. The EPA, which is empowered under § 501(a) to make "such regulations as are necessary to carry out" its functions, promulgated industrywide regulations imposing three sets of limitations on petitioner inorganic chemical manufacturers' discharges of pollutants into waters. The first two impose progressively higher levels of pollutant control on existing point sources (a) after July 1, 1977, and (b) after July 1, 1983, and the third set imposes limits on "new sources" that may be constructed in the future. Petitioner manufacturers filed both a suit in the District Court to set aside the regulations and a petition for review of the regulations in the Court of Appeals, contending that § 301 is not an independent source of authority for setting effluent limitations by regulation, but is merely a description of such limitations which are set for each plant on an individual basis during the permit issuance process, and that § 402 provides the only authority for issuance of enforceable limitations on the discharge of pollutants by existing plants. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the suit to set aside the regulations on the ground that the Court of Appeals had exclusive jurisdiction to consider the validity of the regulations, and held on the petition for review that the EPA was authorized to issue "presumptively applicable" effluent limitations and new source standards, and was required to provide a variance procedure for new sources.


1. The EPA has authority under § 301 to limit discharges by existing plants through industrywide regulations setting forth uniform effluent limitations for both 1977 and 1983, provided some allowance is made for variations in individual plants. Pp. 430 U. S. 126-136.

(a) Both the language of § 301 and the legislative history of the Amendments support the view that § 301 limitations are to be adopted by the Administrator, that they are to be based primarily on classes and categories, and that they are to take the form of regulations. Pp. 430 U. S. 126-130.

(b) The legislative history also makes it clear that § 304 guidelines are not merely aimed at guiding the discretion of permit issuers in setting limitations for individual plants, but § 304 requires that the guidelines survey the practicable or available pollution control technology for an industry and assess its effectiveness, and then describe the methodology the EPA intends to use in the § 301 regulations to determine the effluent limitations for particular plants. Pp. 430 U. S. 130-132.

(c) The above construction of the Amendments is also supported by §§ 101(d) and 501(a). Pp. 430 U. S. 132-133.

2. Section 509(b)(1)(E) unambiguously authorizes court of appeals review of EPA action promulgating an effluent limitation for existing

Page 430 U. S. 114

point sources under § 301, and the reference in § 509(b)(1)(E) to § 301 was not intended only to provide for review of the grant or denial of an individual variance under § 301(c). Since effluent limitations are typically promulgated in the same proceeding as the new-source standards under § 306, there is no doubt that Congress intended review of the two sets of regulations to be had in the same forum. Pp. 430 U. S. 136-137.

3. Variances for individual plants unable to comply with the new source standards issued under § 306 are not authorized. Congress clearly intended regulations under § 306 to be absolute prohibitions, as is indicated by the use of the word "standards" in § 306, as well as by the description of the preferred standard as one "permitting no discharge of pollutants." Pp. 430 U. S. 137-139.

No. 75-978, 528 F.2d 1136, affirmed; Nos. 75-1473 and 75-1705, 541 F.2d 1018, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined, except POWELL, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.