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COLORADO FEDERAL COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO EPA’S HAZARDOUS WASTE ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY

Release Date: 12/15/2000
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FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, DEC. 15, 2000
COLORADO FEDERAL COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO
EPA’S HAZARDOUS WASTE ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY



In a decision issued Nov. 24, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado concluded that EPA has the authority to bring an enforcement action under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) even if a state with an authorized hazardous waste program has taken an enforcement action against the same violator (U.S. v. Power Engineering Co., No 97-B-1654 (D. Colo. Nov. 24, 2000)). Although the court noted that EPA’s action did not duplicate the state’s actions, it nevertheless ratified EPA’s ability to enforce federal laws regardless whether the state has concluded an action involving similar violations, an uncommon practice that is referred to as “overfiling.” In ruling for EPA, the court rejected Power Engineering’s reliance on a September 1999 federal appeals court decision that had concluded that EPA exceeded its authority by pursuing RCRA civil penalties after a state settled similar claims under equivalent state laws against the same violator (Harmon Industries Inc. v. Browner, 191 F.3d 894 (8th Cir. 1999). The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado opinion in U.S. v. Power Engineering Co. can be downloaded at http://www.co.uscourts.gov/opinions/ltb_97b1654.pdf.

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