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California River Watch v. City of Vacaville

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 30, 2017



         This case is before the court on defendant City of Vacaville's motion to dismiss plaintiff California River Watch's complaint. Mot., ECF No. 5. At hearing on June 16, 2017, Jack Silver and David Weinsoff appeared for plaintiff and Gregory Newmark appeared for defendant. ECF No. 14. As discussed below, defendant's motion is DENIED.


         On March 13, 2017, plaintiff filed its complaint. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff, a non-profit organization, alleges the City of Vacaville's public water system transports “hexavalent chromium, ” a contaminant and “hazardous waste, ” in excess of federal and state maximum contaminant levels. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 15, 19, 22. Plaintiff alleges the City's water is supplied for customer consumption and in its contaminated state poses an “imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or the environment” in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901 et seq. (RCRA). Id. ¶¶ 15, 29.

         On May 13, 2017, defendants filed its motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), contending: (1) RCRA's anti-duplication provision bars plaintiff's suit and (2) plaintiff has otherwise failed to allege a violation of the RCRA. See Mot. at 11-16. Plaintiff filed its opposition, Opp'n, ECF No. 9, and defendant filed its reply, Reply, ECF No. 13.


         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” A court may dismiss “based on the lack of cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Although a complaint need contain only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), in order to survive a motion to dismiss this short and plain statement “must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must include something more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” or “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

         In making this context-specific evaluation, this court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true the factual allegations of the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). This rule does not apply to “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), nor to “allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice” or to material attached to or incorporated by reference into the complaint, Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988-89 (9th Cir. 2001).


         A. Anti-Duplication

         In 1976, Congress passed RCRA in an effort to end the environmental and public health risks associated with mismanagement of hazardous waste. See Hinds Invs., L.P. v. Angioli, 654 F.3d 846, 850 (9th Cir. 2011). To this end, RCRA is a “comprehensive environmental statute that governs the treatment, storage, and disposal of solid and hazardous waste.” Id. (citing Meghrig v. KFC W., Inc., 516 U.S. 479, 483 (1996)); see 42 U.S.C. § 6902(b) (articulating RCRA's purpose and objectives). RCRA gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory authority to govern the use of “hazardous wastes from cradle to grave, in accordance with . . . rigorous safeguards and waste management procedures.” Chi. v. Envtl. Def. Fund, 511 U.S. 328, 331 (1994).

         RCRA has two non-duplication provisions, see 42 U.S.C. § 6905(a)-(b), one of which is relevant here. Section 6905(a) provides that RCRA cannot be used to regulate any activity or substance,

[W]hich is subject to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act [33 U.S.C.A. § 1251 et seq.], the Safe Drinking Water Act [42 U.S.C.A. § 300f et seq.], the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 [16 U.S.C.A. §§ 1431 et seq., 1447 et seq., 33 U.S.C.A. §§ 1401 et seq., 2801 et seq.], or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 [42 U.S.C.A. § 2011 et seq.]

42 U.S.C. ยง 6905(a) (brackets in original; italics added). For purposes of this motion, defendant contends plaintiff's case should be dismissed because it is asking the court to enjoin actions under the RCRA that are ...

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