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OXYGENATED FUELS ASSOCIATION, INC. v. PATAKI

May 18, 2001

OXYGENATED FUELS ASSOCIATION, INC. PLAINTIFF,
V.
GEORGE PATAKI, IN HIS CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AND ELIOT SPITZER, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 in this action under the Supremacy Clause, U.S. CONST., Art. VI, cl. 2, the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq., and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The relief sought is authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 2201, 2202 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). District Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.

BACKGROUND

Complaint

Plaintiff is a trade association, the members of which include major producers of methyl tertiary-butyl ether ("MTBE"), an oxygenated fuel additive ("oxygenate") used in motor vehicle fuel to improve combustion for the purpose of reducing emissions pollution. Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of a New York law ("N.Y. MTBE Law") which bans the use, sale, or importation in New York of fuels containing MTBE as of January 1, 2004.

RFG program

The stated purpose of CAA is "to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation's air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population." CAA § 101(b)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 7401(b)(1). In furtherance of this purpose, Congress enacted the reformulated gasoline ("RFG") program in 1990, CAA § 211(k), 42 U.S.C. § 7545(k), to address ozone pollution in certain areas which have failed to attain National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone ("nonattainment" areas). The RFG program requires the sale in nonattainment areas of RFG, i.e., gasoline to which oxygenates such as MTBE or ethanol are added for the purpose of reducing ozone-causing emissions. CAA § 211(k)(5).
The RFG legislation directs EPA to "promulgate regulations . . . establishing requirements for reformulated gasoline to be used in gasoline-fueled vehicles" in nonattainment areas, CAA § 211(k)(1), and sets forth detailed requirements that EPA must include in its regulations. CAA § 211(k)(2), (3). The statute empowers EPA to determine which fuels may be sold in nonattainment areas and prohibits the sale or dispensing of all other fuels in those areas. CAA § 211(k)(4), (5). EPA may prescribe sampling, testing and record-keeping requirements and impose penalties, CAA § 211(d), (k)(5), and may adjust or waive requirements of the program under certain circumstances. CAA § (k)(2)(A), (B), (D). Section 211(c)(1) authorizes EPA to control or prohibit the sale of any fuel or fuel additive if in its judgment any emission product of that fuel or fuel additive causes or contributes to air pollution which may endanger public health or welfare. State regulation of any component or characteristic of a fuel or fuel additive for purposes of emissions control is proscribed except with EPA approval under narrowly defined circumstances. CAA § 211(c)(4)(A)(i), (ii).*fn1

N.Y. MTBE Law

It is undisputed that MTBE has a greater affinity for water than other oxygenates, that it has been detected in groundwater in New York state, and that its taste and odor can be perceived at very low levels. On May 24, 2000, New York amended its Agriculture and Markets Law (L. 2000, c. 35, § 2) to add section 192-g, which provides:

1. For the purposes of this section, "gasoline" shall mean any fuel sold for use in motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines, and commonly or commercially known or sold as gasoline.
2. No person shall import into, or sell, dispense or offer for sale any gasoline which contains methyl tertiary butyl ether.
3. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be liable for a civil penalty of not less than five hundred dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars. New York also amended section 19-0301(3) of New York Environmental Conservation Law (L. 2000, c. 35, § 2) to add a new subsection B, which states: "No provision of this subdivision shall be deemed to authorize the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether as an oxygenate in any motor fuel imported into, or sold or offered for sale in this State." The amendments are effective January 1, 2004 (L. 2000, c. 35, § 3). The legislative history of the N.Y. MTBE Law establishes that its purpose is to protect New York's groundwater from contamination, and this is not seriously contested by plaintiff.

The motion

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment awarding it all relief sought ...


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