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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Pennsylvania Indus. Chem. Corp., 411 U.S. 655 (1973)

United States v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corp.

No. 72-624

Argued March 27, 1973

Decided May 14, 1973

411 U.S. 655


After the District Court refused respondent's offers of proof of reliance on Army Corps of Engineers regulations limiting violations to those impeding navigation, respondent was convicted of violating § 13 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 by discharging industrial pollutants into a navigable river. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that § 13 did not apply absent formalized permit procedures or, alternatively, that respondent should have been allowed to prove that it was affirmatively misled by the Corps of Engineers' regulations to believe that no permit was needed for these industrial pollutants.


1. Section 13 prohibitions apply without regard to formalized permit procedures that it authorizes but does not mandate, and Congress did not intend to permit discharges specifically prohibited by § 13 when it enacted the 1965 and 1970 water quality acts directing States to create pollution prevention and abatement programs. Pp. 411 U. S. 662-670.

2. Although § 13 bars all discharges of pollutants, and not only those that constitute obstructions to navigation, the Corps of Engineers consistently limited its regulations to such obstructions, and thus may have deprived respondent of fair warning as to what conduct the Government intended to make criminal. Pp. 411 U. S. 670-675.

461 F.2d 468, modified and remanded to District Court.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, WHITE and MARSHALL, JJ., joined; in Part II of which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and POWELL, JJ., joined; and in Part I of which BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and POWELL, JJ., filed a statement dissenting from Part I of the Court's opinion, post, p. 411 U. S. 675. BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., filed a statement dissenting from the judgment and Part II of the Court's opinion, post, p. 411 U. S. 675.

Page 411 U. S. 656

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