The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision approving a local air quality agency’s transfer of emissions credits to a new $1-billion power plant in California. Cal. Communities Against Toxics v. EPA, No. 11-71127 (9th Cir. 7/26/12).

The environmental group petitioners alleged that EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to disclose certain documents in the electronic docket when it approved the California South Coast Air Quality Management District’s plan to transfer emissions credits to the CPV Sentinel power plant. In response, EPA conceded that petitioners had identified some problems with the emissions-credit calculation and asked that the court remand the matter to EPA to reconsider its analysis rather than vacating the approval.  

The court granted EPA’s remand without vacatur, concluding that a complete dismissal of EPA’s approval would lead to “economically disastrous” consequences because the plant is a $1-billion venture employing 350 workers. According to the court, because petitioners already had the documents from prior proceedings, any EPA procedural error was harmless.