United States District Court, S.D. New York
RIVERKEEPER, INC.; CONNECTICUT FUND FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, d/b/a SAVE THE SOUND; NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC.; WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE, INC.; RARITAN BAYKEEPER, INC., d/b/a NY/NJ BAYKEEPER; BRONX COUNCIL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY; NEWTOWN CREEK ALLIANCE; JAMAICA BAY ECOWATCHERS; HUDSON RIVER WATERTRAIL ASSOCIATION, Plaintiffs,
SCOTT PRUITT, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency; PETER D. LOPEZ, Regional Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2; and THE UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, Defendants.
D. OMMEN Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc. White
Plains, NY Counsel for Plaintiffs
GEOFFREY S. BERMAN Acting United States Attorney for The
Southern District of New York BY: REBECCA S. TINIO New York,
NY Counsel for Defendants
OPINION & ORDER
S. BRODERICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
me is the motion of Defendants United States Environmental
Protection Agency (“EPA”), Scott Pruitt, and
Peter D. Lopez (collectively, “Defendants”)
for a stay of proceedings until April 16, 2018. (Doc. 39.)
Because I find that the various factors concerning whether a
stay should be granted decidedly favor denying a stay,
Defendants' motion is DENIED.
Background and Procedural History
Riverkeeper, Inc., Connecticut Fund for the Environment,
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., Waterkeeper
Alliance, Inc., Raritan Baykeeper, Inc., Bronx Council for
Environmental Quality, Newtown Creek Alliance, Jamaica Bay
Ecowatchers, and Hudson River Watertrail Association
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”)-a group of
non-profit organizations engaged in environmental advocacy on
behalf of communities in and around New York-bring this
citizen action pursuant to the Clean Water Act (the
“CWA”) and the Administrative Procedure Act (the
“APA”) requesting an injunction to compel
Defendants to comply with their allegedly non-discretionary
duties under the CWA. (Compl. ¶¶
303 of the CWA requires a state to submit new or revised
water quality standards to EPA for review. 33 U.S.C. §
1313(c)(2)(A). When a state submits a new or revised
standard, EPA approves the standard within sixty days or
disapproves the standard and specifies the changes required
to meet the requirements of the CWA within ninety days.
Id. § 1313(c)(3). “If such changes are
not adopted by the State within ninety days after the date of
notification, the [EPA] Administrator shall promulgate such
standard pursuant to paragraph (4) of this subsection.”
November 4, 2015, the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) adopted
water quality standards (the “2015 NY Standards”)
for its Class I and S.D. waters, (Ommen Decl. Ex. A, at 1),
which are generally defined as “saline surface
waters” and are used for a variety of purposes,
including swimming, boating, and recreational fishing,
(id. at 2). NYSDEC submitted these revisions to EPA
on February 24, 2016. (Id. at 1.) On May 9, 2016,
EPA responded with a letter notifying NYSDEC that it was
“not taking action” on the relevant revisions,
but indicating that it “has not supported” a
component of the revised standard since 1986 and that it
“continue[s] to expect NYSDEC to adopt the 2012
Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) for all primary
contact recreation waters in the State, including Class I and
S.D. waters, as soon as possible.” (Id. at
2-3.) To date, NYSDEC has not adopted the 2012 RWQC, nor has
EPA promulgated a new standard on behalf of New York State.
filed their Complaint on June 29, 2017, alleging that
Defendants have failed to comply with the mandatory
requirements of the CWA because they have not promulgated a
standard on behalf of New York State that reflects the
standards required by the CWA, or in the alternative, because
they have not approved or disapproved the 2015 NY Standards.
(Compl. ¶¶ 42-58.) On November 30, 2017 Defendants
filed a motion to stay the litigation. (Docs. 39-41.)
Plaintiffs opposed the motion on December 8, 2017, (Docs.
51-52), and Defendants filed their reply on December 15,
2017, (Doc. 55).
their papers, Defendants state that EPA is currently
assisting NYSDEC to develop updated water quality standards
that adopt the 2012 RWQC and address Plaintiffs' concerns
(the “Updated NY Standards”). (Defs.' Mem.
NYSDEC intends to submit the Updated NY Standards to the New
York Department of State (“NYDOS”) for public
notice and comment by the end of March 2018. (Defs.' Mem.
3; Gratz Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, Ex. A.) If, after the
state rulemaking process is completed, New York State adopts
the Updated NY Standards, they would be submitted to the EPA
for review under Section 303 of the CWA. (Defs.' Mem. 3;
Gratz Decl. ¶ 13.) Defendants claim that litigating this
matter would divert considerable resources at EPA that are
currently being used to provide technical assistance to
develop the Updated NY Standards. (Defs.' Mem. 6; Gratz
Decl. ¶ 15.) The state rulemaking process, in
Defendants' view, is a more efficient route towards
achieving Plaintiffs' ultimate goal, which is adoption of
water quality standards in compliance with the 2012 RWQC.
(Defs.' Mem. 6.) Plaintiffs disagree, asserting that the
state rulemaking process is long and far from certain in
achieving their desired result, which is EPA's compliance
with the requirements of the CWA. (Pls.' Opp.
power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent
in every court to control the disposition of the causes on
its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am.
Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). Therefore, whether or not
to stay a proceeding is “firmly within a district
court's discretion.” LaSala v. Needham &
Co., 399 F.Supp.2d 421, 427 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (quoting
Am. Shipping Line, Inc. v. Massan Shipping Indus.,
Inc., 885 F.Supp. 499, 502 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)). District
courts in this Circuit consider five factors in determining
whether to issue a stay:
(1) the private interests of the plaintiffs in proceeding
expeditiously with the civil litigation as balanced against
the prejudice to the plaintiffs if delayed; (2) the private
interests of and burden on the defendants; (3) the interests
of the courts; (4) the interests of persons not parties to
the civil litigation; and (5) the public interest.
Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Inc. v.
630 F.Supp.2d 295, 304 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)
(citation omitted). The “basic goal” in
considering these factors “is to avoid
prejudice.” Id ...