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Case Name Yankton Sioux Tribe v. EPA EJ-SD-0001
Docket / Court 4:96-cv-04268 ( D.S.D. )
State/Territory South Dakota
Case Type(s) Environmental Justice
Case Summary
On September 17, 1996, The Yankton Sioux Tribe petitioned the District Court of South Dakota for judicial review of a final decision of Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to grant the Southern Missouri Waste Management District’s (“District”) request to waive the composite liner ... read more >
On September 17, 1996, The Yankton Sioux Tribe petitioned the District Court of South Dakota for judicial review of a final decision of Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to grant the Southern Missouri Waste Management District’s (“District”) request to waive the composite liner requirement for a municipal solid waste landfill facility under construction on non-Indian land within the reservation.

The Tribe’s complaint alleged that the EPA’s actions were arbitrary and capricious and that the decision was inconsistent with the Agency’s own regulations. The Tribe alleged that the EPA’s regulations required the State and not the owner/operator - the District - to review and approve an alternative design. The Tribe requested that the Court find that the EPA’s interpretation of its regulation was invalid.

On June 14, 1995, in another case, the District Court of South Dakota required the District to install a composite liner in its facility for three reasons: (1) the EPA had not made a final decision on the applications submitted to it by the State of South Dakota and the Yankton Sioux Tribe, (2) a federal regulation required installation of a composite liner, and (3) at trial the District offered to construct the facility with a composite liner. 890 F.Supp. 878. The District did not appeal the Court's Order and Judgment requiring the composite liner.

Rather, in September 1995, District officials and members of the District's engineering firm, through the assistance of South Dakota's congressional delegation, arranged a meeting in Washington, D.C. with an EPA Administrator to seek an administrative waiver of the composite liner requirement. At the meeting, the District stated that the composite liner would result in substantial additional cost to be borne by a rural population. Both South Dakota senators attended the meeting to express their concerns.

A few weeks after the Washington meeting, the District asked the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources to submit an application to the EPA seeking a waiver to the composite liner requirement. The District submitted its own application to the EPA seeking a waiver to composite liner requirement.

Interested parties met on November 27, 1995, to hear EPA’s tentative decision to waive the composite liner requirement. The Tribe’s counsel notified EPA that it believed the Agency lacked statutory authority to grant a waiver and counsel’s belief that the agency reached its decision as a result of political pressure.

On January 24, 1996, the EPA held public hearings to take comments on the Agency’s tentative decision allowing the waiver. Tribal members, environmental activists, and some community members opposed the decision, but the majority of comments submitted were in support of the decision.

On June 26, 1996, the EPA issued its final decision granting the District’s application for the waiver of the composite liner requirement.

The Court issued its review on December 11, 1996. Judge Piersol held that: (1) the EPA's interpretation of the statute to allow the District (the owner/operator) to submit the waiver request was an error; (2) under statutes authorizing site-specific regulations, the EPA could issue a legislative rule that allowed the District to petition the Agency directly; (3) the waiver procedure complied with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); and (4) the decision was adequately supported by scientific evidence in administrative record. The court ruled for the EPA and affirmed the Agency’s grant of the waiver to the District. 950 F.Supp. 1471.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision on January 2, 1997, which was consolidated with two other appeals (96-4268; 94-4217). On March 2, 1998, the appellate court dismissed the appeal.

Mary Kate Sickel - 12/02/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Sanitation/Public Works
General
Groundwater
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) Environmental Protection Agency
Plaintiff Description Yankton Sioux Tribe.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 1996
Case Closing Year 1998
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
4:96-cv-04268 (D.S.D.)
EJ-SD-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/1998
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
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Judges Piersol, Lawrence L. (D.S.D.) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abourezk , James G. (South Dakota) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Gaumer, Craig Peyton (South Dakota) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Gordon, Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Levin, Joshua M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
McGraw, Jack (Colorado) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Schiffer, Lois J (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Schreier, Karen E (South Dakota) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Speicher, Thomas A (Colorado) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000
Ulrich, Bonnie P. (South Dakota) show/hide docs
EJ-SD-0001-9000

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