Review of Adverse Decisions

AuthorMargaret 'Peggy' Strand/Lowell Rothschild
Page 135
Chapter 5
Review of Adverse Decisions
Persons dissatised with a wetlands decision by t he Corps or EPA can seek review. Depending upon
the person and the action, administrative or judicial review is available. In addition, persons cla im-
ing that federal wetland decisions deprived them of an interest in property may seek monetary
compensation. is chapter addresses t he adm inistrative appeals, judicial review, and the judicial “ta k-
ings” remedy. e CWA does not specica lly provide for judicial review of wetla nds decisions. Rather,
such review is available pursuant to t he standa rds of the APA,1 and is based on general federa l question
jurisdiction.2 Administrative enforcement penalties under CWA §309 are the only wetlands-related actions
for which the Act expressly provides review.3 Section 509(b) establishes federal court of appeals rev iew for
many CWA administrative actions taken by EPA, but does not apply to actions under §404. Section 505(a)
(2) authorizes lawsuits against EPA to compel performance of mandatory duties.
Review of the C orps’ decisions has changed since the 2000 Corps issuance of an administ rative
appeals r ule for na l permit denials and wetland s jurisdict ional determinations.4 e a dministrative
appeal is avai lable to the permit applicant or landow ner only. ese persons will have to properly exhau st
all applicable administrative remedie s under the administrat ive appe als process before ling an action
in the federal cour ts. Direct judicial re view is ava ilable to other part ies dissatised with a Corps or EPA
wetland decision.
e 2012 Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. U.S. EPA5 authorized judicial review of a wetlands com-
pliance order, changing the previously applicable law that had denied pre-enforcement review of compli-
ance orders. See Chapter 6, Enforcement, for a more extensive description of this decision. ere has been a
healthy debate over whether Sackett has opened the door to judicial review for other administrative actions
that have, to d ate, been held non-reviewable. Practitioners will want to follow the post-Sackett ca ses with
care, since this decision is applied by lower courts.
I. Review of Permits and Regulatory Decisions
A. Administrative Appeal Process
e Corps issued its rules establishing an administrative appeal process on March 28, 2000,6 allowing
applicants and la ndowners to appeal denied permits, issued permits that contain requirements that a re
unacceptable to the applicant, or nal wetland jurisdictional determinations. e decisions that are subject
to appeal are made initially by Corps District oces. e decisions are appealed to the Corps Division
oces. Requests for appea l must be furnished to the Division oce within 60 days of t he date of the
appealable decision.
1. 5 U.S.C. §706 (2006), available in ELR S. A. P.
2. 28 U.S.C. §1331 (2006).
3. 33 U.S.C. §1319(g)(8) (2006), ELR S. FWPCA §309(g)(8).
4. 33 C.F.R. pt. 331 (2008).
5. 132 S. Ct. 1367 (2012).
6. 65 Fed. Reg. 16486 (Mar. 28, 2000), codied in 33 C.P.R. pt. 331.
Page 136 Wetlands Deskbook, 4th Edition
e appeal ocer is generally an attorney in the Corps Division; these appeals do not involve admin-
istrative law judges. e procedures are informal, and the appeal is decided on the information that wa s
before the district; there is no opportunity to introduce w itnesses or present evidence that was not in the
District’s records. A site visit or an appeal conference or meeting may be conducted during the appeal pro-
cess. A decision on the merits of the appeal based on the administrative record is normally made in 90 days.
e Division will either uphold the District decision or send the case back to the District, with direction,
instructing the District to make a new decision.
• Who Can Appeal. e appeals are available only to the permit applicant; la ndowner; and to a lease,
easement, or option holder who has received an approved jurisdictional determination, permit denial
or has declined a proered individual permit. us, if someone other than one of the aected parties
listed above wants to challenge a Corps’ regulatory decision, federal court is the only option.7
• What Actions Can Be Appealed. Appeals are available for nal wetland jurisdictional determinations,
permit denials made by the Corps, and declined individual permits. An applicant or landowner
cannot appeal a permit denied by the corps “without prejudice.” A permit denial without prejudice
includes a permit that was denied because of a state §401 water quality cert ication or state coa stal
zone management disapproval.8 No EPA or Corps administrative enforcement actions are subject to
this administrative appeal process.
• Exha ustion of Administra tive Remedies. e re gulations specif y that pursuit of an ad ministra-
tive a ppeal is a prerequisite for judici al re view. A par ty c annot seek redre ss in the federa l cour ts
unless it ha s received a na l Corps decision on the mer its and exh austed all applicable ad minis -
trati ve remedies.
e Corps’ eight division oces (Great Lakes and Ohio River, Mississippi Valley, North Atlantic,
Northwestern, Pacic Ocean, South Atlantic, South Pacic, and Southwestern) post the appeals and appel-
late decisions on their websites.9 ere have been many appeals of jurisdictional determinations.
B. Judicial Appeal Process
An applicant or landowner may seek judicial review in federal court of a denied permit or declined indi-
vidual permit only after ex hausting all ava ilable administrative remedies. However, if someone other than
the applicant or property owner wants to challenge a Corps’ regulatory decision, that person can go directly
to court. Ot her Corps and EPA nal decisions, such as regulations, are reviewable a lso in federal district
courts. Judicial review of a Corps decision is governed by the APA.10 Federal courts must uphold the deci-
sion unless it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.11
us, a Corps permit decision may be overturned only if it is arbitrar y and capricious.12 e standard for
review is deferential.13
As a general matter, the Corps’ permit decisions are reviewed on the administrative record, and not with
a de novo trial in federal court.14 Review on the record means that a court will not hear testimony, but will
only review the administrative record developed while t he Corps was evaluating the permit application.
7. e Corps considered, but rejected, making administrative appeals available to interested third parties. See id. at 16488.
8. See 33 C.F.R. 331.5(b)(4) and 33 C.F.R. 320.40).
9. See http://www.lrd.usace.annymil/ET-CO/Regulatory/Appeals/ division%20links.asp (providing link to each division’s appellate decisions
web page).
10. See 5 U.S.C. §§701–706 (2006).
11. See 5 U.S.C. §706(2)(A).
12. See Galveston Bay Conservation & Preservation Ass’n v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 55 F. Supp. 2d 658 (S.D. Tex. 1999); Johnson v. U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, 6 F. Supp. 2d 1 105 (D. Minn. 1998); Morgan v. Walter, 728 F. Supp. 1483, 20 ELR 20731 (D. Idaho 1989);
Missouri Coalition for the Environment v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 678 F. Supp. 790, 19 ELR 20581 (E.D. Mo. 1988); 1902 Atlantic,
Ltd. v. Hudson, 574 F. Supp. 1381, 14 ELR 20023 (E.D. Va. 1983); Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 701 F.2d 1011, 13 ELR
20326 (2d Cir. 1983).
13. See Galveston Bay Conservation & Preservation Ass’n, 55 F. Supp. 2d at 661; Stewart v. Potts, 996 F. Supp. 668, 674 (S.D. Tex. 1998).
14. See Smith v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5151 (S.D. Ala. 1999); Mylith Park Lot Owners Ass’n v. U.S.
EPA, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18725 (N.D. Ill. 1997); Bailey v. United States, 647 F. Supp. 44, 17 ELR 20501 (D. Idaho 1986); Avoyelles
Sportsmen’s League, Inc. v. Marsh, 715 F.2d 897, 904–05, 1 3 ELR 20942 (5th Cir. 1983).

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