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Padres Hacia Una Vida Mejor, et al v. Lisa P. Jackson

May 16, 2012

PADRES HACIA UNA VIDA MEJOR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LISA P. JACKSON, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STAY ALL PROCEEDINGS (Document 26)

Defendant Lisa P. Jackson, in her official capacity as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Defendant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (collectively "EPA" or "Defendants") filed the instant motion to stay all proceedings until August 31, 2012. The matter was heard on May 11, 2012, before the Honorable Dennis L. Beck, United States Magistrate Judge. Attorney Michael Zee appeared on behalf of Defendants. Attorney Brent Newell appeared on behalf of Plaintiffs Padres Hacia Una Vida Mejor ("Padres") and El Pueblo Para El Aire Y Agua Limpio ("El Pueblo") (collectively "Plaintiffs").

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Padres Hacia Una Vida Mejor and El Pueblo Para El Aire Y Agua Limpio filed this action on June 30, 2011. The complaint contains a single cause of action for violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). Plaintiffs allege that EPA has violated administrative regulations by failing to issue preliminary findings and recommendations for voluntary compliance in response to Plaintiffs' Title VI complaint within 180 days of EPA's initiation of investigation. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief requiring EPA to process their Title VI administrative complaint in compliance with 40 C.F.R. § 7.115. Doc. 1.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on September 2, 2011. The motion was fully briefed by the parties.

On December 14, 2011, the Court stayed the action, including the motion to dismiss, and vacated the Scheduling Conference while the parties attempted to resolve the case. The parties did not reach a resolution and the Court lifted the stay on March 9, 2012.

On March 26, 2012, Defendants filed the instant motion to stay all proceedings until August 31, 2012, to allow the agency to complete its investigation of Plaintiffs' Title VI administrative complaint. Doc. 26.

On April 6, 2012, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss and directed Defendants to file an answer or a motion for interlocutory appeal. Defendants filed an answer on April 27, 2012.

On April 27, 2012, Plaintiffs opposed the motion to stay proceedings. Defendants replied on May 4, 2012.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiffs are associations whose members reside in Buttonwillow, California and Kettleman City, California. The populations of these cities are majority Latino, and a substantial portion of these populations are below the poverty line. Two of California's Class I toxic waste disposal sites are located in these cities. EPA has distributed federal financial assistance to ten California agencies ("10 Agencies") that are responsible for the permitting and oversight of the Class I toxic waste disposal dumps in Buttonwillow and Kettleman City.

On December 12, 1994, Plaintiffs filed with the EPA a Title VI discrimination complaint against the 10 Agencies and the owners of the two toxic waste disposal dumps ("Owners"). The Title VI complaint alleges that the Owners and the 10 Agencies discriminated against Plaintiffs in the siting, permitting, expansion, and operation of the toxic waste dumps.

On July 18, 1995, EPA notified Plaintiffs that it had accepted their Title VI complaint for investigation.

On October 14, 1996, Plaintiffs sent a letter to then EPA Administrator, Carol Browner. The letter raised the issue of EPA's failure to adhere to regulatory deadlines with respect to processing Title VI complaints. In pertinent part, the letter stated, "The EPA should have completed its preliminary investigation by mid-January of 1996. The EPA missed its deadline by eight months. As of October 1, 1996, the EPA was still evaluating the responses to [Plaintiffs'] complaint and had not formulated nor sent the recipients its preliminary findings and recommendations for achieving voluntary compliance, in violation of 40 C.F.R. § 7.115(c)(1)." Doc. No. 11-3, p. 11. Further, the letter warned: "We are all well aware that there are remedies under the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706, available to us if EPA continues to fail to meet ...


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