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U.S. Supreme Court

Adamo Wrecking Co. v. United States, 434 U.S. 275 (1978)

Adamo Wrecking Co. v. United States

No. 76-911

Argued October 11, 1977

Decided January 10, 1978

434 U.S. 275


The Clean Air Act authorizes the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate "emission standards" for hazardous air pollutants. The emission of an air pollutant in violation of an applicable emission standard is prohibited by § 112(c)(1)(b), the knowing violation of which is made a criminal offense by § 113(c)(1)(C). Section 307(b)(1) provides that a petition for review of the Administrator's action in promulgating an emission standard may be filed only in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and under § 307(b)(2) such action is not subject to judicial review in a civil or criminal enforcement proceeding. Petitioner was indicted for violating § 112(c)(1)(b) for allegedly having failed while demolishing a building to comply with an EPA regulation captioned "National Emission Standard for Asbestos" and specifying that a certain procedure or "work practice" be followed in demolition of buildings containing asbestos but not limiting asbestos emissions that occur during a demolition. The District Court, finding that the cited regulation was not an "emission standard" within the meaning of § 112(c), granted petitioner's motion to dismiss the indictment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 307(b) precluded petitioner from questioning in a criminal enforcement proceeding whether a regulation ostensibly promulgated under § 112(c) was in fact an emission standard.


1. A defendant charged with a criminal violation under the Act may assert the defense that the "emission standard" with whose violation he is charged is not such a standard as Congress contemplated when it used the term even though that standard has not previously been subjected to a § 307(b) review procedure. Such procedure does not relieve the Government of the duty of proving, in a prosecution under § 113(c)(1)(C) that the regulation allegedly violated is an "emission standard," and a federal court in which such a prosecution is brought may determine whether or not the regulation that a defendant is alleged to have violated is an "emission standard" within the Act's meaning. From the totality of the statutory scheme, in which Congress dealt more leniently, either in terms of liability, notice, or available

Page 434 U. S. 276

defenses, with other infractions of EPA orders, but, in contrast, attached stringent sanctions to the violation of "emission standards," it is clear that Congress intended to limit "emission standards" to regulations of a certain type and did not intend to empower the Administrator of EPA to make a regulation an "emission standard" by his mere designation. Yakus v. United States, 321 U. S. 414, distinguished. Pp. 434 U. S. 278-285.

2. The District Court did not err in holding that the regulation that petitioner was charged with violating was not an emission standard. Section 112 itself distinguishes between emission standards and techniques to be used in achieving those standards, and the language of § 11(b)(1)(b) clearly supports the conclusion that an emission standard was intended to be a quantitative limit on emissions, not a work-practice standard. Recent amendments to the Act fortify that conclusion. Pp. 434 U. S. 285-289.

545 F.2d 1, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 434 U. S. 289. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 291. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 434 U. S. 293.

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