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United States Regulations
40 CFR PART 17—IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT IN EPA ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
Title 40: Protection of Environment
PART 17—IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACT IN EPA ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
Authority: Section 504, Title 5 U.S.C., as amended by sec. 203(a)(1), Equal Access to Justice Act (Title 2 of Pub. L. 96–481, 94 Stat. 2323).
Source: 48 FR 39936, Sept. 2, 1983, unless otherwise noted.
Subpart A—General Provisions
§ 17.1 Purpose of these rules.
These rules are adopted by EPA pursuant to section 504 of title 5 U.S.C., as added by section 203(a)(1) of the Equal Access to Justice Act, Public Law No. 96–481. Under the Act, an eligible party may receive an award for attorney's fees and other expenses when it prevails over EPA in an adversary adjudication before EPA unless EPA's position as a party to the proceeding was substantially justified or special circumstances make an award unjust. The purpose of these rules is to establish procedures for the submission and consideration of applications for awards against EPA when the underlying decision is not reviewed by a court.
§ 17.2 Definitions.
As used in this part:
(a) The Act means section 504 of title 5 U.S.C., as amended by section 203(a)(1) of the Equal Access to Justice Act, Public Law No. 96–481.
(b) Administrator means the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
(c) Adversary adjudication means an adjudication required by statute to be held pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 554 in which the position of the United States is represented by counsel or otherwise, but excludes an adjudication for the purpose of granting or renewing a license.
(d) EPA means the Environmental Protection Agency, an Agency of the United States.
(e) Presiding officer means the official, without regard to whether he is designated as an administrative law judge or a hearing officer or examiner, who presides at the adversary adjudication.
(f) Proceeding means an adversary adjudication as defined in §17.2(b).
§ 17.3 Proceedings covered.
(a) These rules apply to adversary adjudications required by statute to be conducted by EPA under 5 U.S.C. 554. To the extent that they are adversary adjudications, the proceedings conducted by EPA to which these rules apply include:
(1) A hearing to consider the assessment of a noncompliance penalty under section 120 of the Clean Air Act as amended (42 U.S.C. 7420);
(2) A hearing to consider the termination of an individual National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit under section 402 of the Clean Water Act as amended (33 U.S.C. 1342);
(3) A hearing to consider the assessment of any civil penalty under section 16(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. 2615(a));
(4) A hearing to consider ordering a manufacturer of hazardous chemical substances or mixtures to take actions under section 6(b) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. 2605(b)), to decrease the unreasonable risk posed by a chemical substance or mixture;
(5) A hearing to consider the assessment of any civil penalty under section 14(a) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act as amended (7 U.S.C. 1361);
(6) A hearing to consider suspension of a registrant for failure to take appropriate steps in the development of registration data under section 3(c)(2)(B) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as amended (7 U.S.C. 136a);
(7) A hearing to consider the suspension or cancellation of a registration under section 6 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act as amended (7 U.S.C. 136d);
(8) A hearing to consider the assessment of any civil penalty or the revocation or suspension of any permit under section 105(a) or 105(f) of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act as amended (33 U.S.C. 1415(a), 33 U.S.C. 1415(f));
(9) A hearing to consider the issuance of a compliance order or the assessment of any civil penalty conducted under section 3008 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as amended (42 U.S.C. 6928);
(10) A hearing to consider the issuance of a compliance order under section 11(d) of the Noise Control Act as amended (42 U.S.C. 4910(d)).
(b) If a proceeding includes both matters covered by the Act and matters specifically excluded from coverage, any award made will include only fees and expenses related to covered issues.
§ 17.4 Applicability to EPA proceedings.
The Act applies to an adversary adjudication pending before EPA at any time between October 1, 1981 and September 30, 1984. This includes proceedings begun before October 1, 1981 if final EPA action has not been taken before that date, and proceedings pending on September 30, 1984.
§ 17.5 Eligibility of applicants.
(a) To be eligible for an award of attorney's fees and other expenses under the Act, the applicant must be a prevailing party in the adversary adjudication for which it seeks an award. The term party is defined in 5 U.S.C. 551(3). The applicant must show that it meets all conditions of eligibility set out in this subpart and in subpart B.
(b) The types of eligible applicants are as follows:
(1) An individual with a net worth of not more than $1 million;
(2) The sole owner of an unincorporated business which has a net worth of not more than $5 million and not more than 500 employees;
(3) A charitable or other tax-exempt organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)) with not more than 500 employees;
(4) A cooperative association as defined in section 15(a) of the Agricultural Marketing Act (12 U.S.C. 114j(a)) with not more than 500 employees; and
(5) Any other partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization with a net worth of not more than $5 million and not more than 500 employees.
(c) For the purpose of eligibility, the net worth and number of employees of an applicant shall be determined as of the date of adversary adjudication was initiated.
(d) An applicant who owns an unincorporated business will be considered as an individual rather than a sole owner of an unincorporated business if the issues on which the applicant prevails are related primarily to personal interests rather than to business interest.
(e) The employees of an applicant include all persons who regularly perform services for remuneration for the applicant under the applicant's direction and control. Part-time employees shall be included.
(f) The net worth and number of employees of the applicant and all of its affiliates shall be aggregated to determine eligibility. An individual or group of individuals, corporation, or other entity that directly or indirectly controls or owns a majority of the voting shares of another business' board of directors, trustees, or other persons exercising similar functions, shall be considered an affiliate of that business for purposes of this part. In addition, the Presiding Officer may determine that financial relationships of the applicant other than those described in this paragraph constitute special circumstances that would make an award unjust.
(g) An applicant is not eligible if it has participated in the proceeding on behalf of other persons or entities that are ineligible.
§ 17.6 Standards for awards.
(a) A prevailing applicant may receive an award for fees and expenses incurred in connection with a proceeding unless the position of the EPA as a party to the proceeding was substantially justified or unless special circumstances make the award sought unjust. No presumption arises that the agency's position was not substantially justified simply because the agency did not prevail.
(b) An award shall be reduced or denied if the applicant has unduly or unreasonably protracted the proceeding.
§ 17.7 Allowable fees and other expenses.
(a) The following fees and other expenses are allowable under the Act:
(1) Reasonable expenses of expert witnesses;
(2) The reasonable cost of any study, analysis, engineering report, test, or project which EPA finds necessary for the preparation of the party's case;
(3) Reasonable attorney or agent fees;
(b) The amount of fees awarded will be based upon the prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of services furnished, except that:
(1) Compensation for an expert witness will not exceed $24.09 per hour; and
(2) Attorney or agent fees will not be in excess of $75 per hour.
(c) In determining the reasonableness of the fee sought, the Presiding Officer shall consider the following:
(1) The prevailing rate for similar services in the community in which the attorney, agent, or witness ordinarily performs services;
(2) The time actually spent in the representation of the applicant;
(3) The difficulty or complexity of the issues raised by the application;
(4) Any necessary and reasonable expenses incurred;
(5) Such other factors as may bear on the value of the services performed.
§ 17.8 Delegation of authority.
The Administrator delegates to the Environmental Appeals Board authority to take final action relating to the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Environmental Appeals Board is described at 40 CFR 1.25(e). This delegation does not preclude the Environmental Appeals Board from referring any matter related to the Equal Access to Justice Act to the Administrator when the Environmental Appeals Board deems it appropriate to do so. When an appeal or motion is referred to the Administrator by the Environmental Appeals Board, all parties shall be so notified and the rules in this part referring to the Environmental Appeals Board shall be interpreted as referring to the Administrator.
[57 FR 5323, Feb 13, 1992]
Subpart B—Information Required From Applicants
§ 17.11 Contents of application.
(a) An application for award of fees and expenses under the Act shall identify the applicant and the proceeding for which an award is sought. The application shall show that the applicant has prevailed and identify the position of EPA in the proceeding that the applicant alleges was not substantially justified.
(b) The application shall include a statement that the applicant's net worth as of the time the proceeding was initiated did not exceed $1 million if the applicant is an individual (other than a sole owner of an unincorporated business seeking an award in that capacity) or $5 million in the case of all other applicants. An applicant may omit this statement if:
(1) It attaches a copy of a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service that it qualifies as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)) and is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Code or, in the case of such an organization not required to obtain a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on its exempt status, a statement that describes the basis for the applicant's belief that it qualifies under section 501(c)(3) of the Code; or
(2) It states that it is a cooperative association as defined in section 15(a) of the Agricultural Marketing Act (12 U.S.C. 114j(a)).
(c) If the applicant is a partnership, corporation, association, or organization, or a sole owner of an unincorporated business, the application shall state that the applicant did not have more than 500 employees at the time the proceeding was initiated, giving the number of its employees and describing briefly the type and purpose of its organization or business.
(d) The application shall itemize the amount of fees and expenses sought.
(e) The application may include any other matters that the applicant believes should be considered in determining whether and in what amount an award should be made.
(f) The application shall be signed by the applicant with respect to the eligibility of the applicant and by the attorney of the applicant with respect to fees and expenses sought. The application shall contain or be accompanied by a written verification under oath or affirmation or under penalty of perjury that the information provided in the application and all accompanying material is true and complete to the best of the signer's information and belief.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 2000–0403)
§ 17.12 Net worth exhibit.
(a) Each applicant except a qualified tax exempt organization or a qualified cooperative must submit with its application a detailed exhibit showing its net worth at the time the proceeding was initiated. If any individual, corporation, or other entity directly or indirectly controls or owns a majority of the voting shares or other interest of the applicant, or if the applicant directly or indirectly owns or controls a majority of the voting shares or other interest of any corporation or other entity, the exhibit must include a showing of the net worth of all such affiliates or of the applicant including the affiliates. The exhibit may be in any form that provides full disclosure of assets and liabilities of the applicant and any affiliates and is sufficient to determine whether the applicant qualifies under the standards of 5 U.S.C. 504(b)(1)(B)(i). The Presiding Officer may require an applicant to file additional information to determine the applicant's eligibility for an award.
(b) The net worth exhibit shall describe any transfers of assets from, or obligations incurred by, the applicant or any affiliate occurring in the one-year period prior to the date on which the proceeding was initiated that reduced the net worth of the applicant and its affiliates below the applicable net worth ceiling. If there were no such transactions, the applicant shall so state.
(c) The net worth exhibit shall be included in the public record of the proceeding.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 2000–0430)
§ 17.13 Documentation of fees and expenses.
(a) The application shall be accompanied by full documentation of fees and expenses, including the cost of any study, engineering report, test, or project, for which an award is sought.
(b) The documentation shall include an affidavit from any attorney, agent, or expert witness representing or appearing in behalf of the party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed and describing the specific services performed.
(1) The affidavit shall itemize in detail the services performed by the date, number of hours per date, and the services performed during those hours. In order to establish the hourly rate, the affidavit shall state the hourly rate which is billed and paid by the majority of clients during the relevant time periods.
(2) If no hourly rate is paid by the majority of clients because, for instance, the attorney or agent represents most clients on a contingency basis, the attorney or agent shall provide affidavits from two attorneys or agents with similar experience, who perform similar work, stating the hourly rate which they bill and are paid by the majority of their clients during a comparable time period.
(c) The documentation shall also include a description of any expenses for which reimbursement is sought and a statement of the amounts paid and payable by the applicant or by any other person or entity for the services provided.
(d) The Presiding Officer may require the applicant to provide vouchers, receipts, or other substantiation for any expenses claimed.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 2000–0430)
§ 17.14 Time for submission of application.
(a) An application must be filed no later than 30 days after final disposition of the proceeding. If agency review or reconsideration is sought or taken of a decision in which an applicant believes it has prevailed, action on the award of fees shall be stayed pending final agency disposition of the underlying controversy.
(b) Final disposition means the later of:
(1) The date on which the Agency decision becomes final, either through disposition by the Environmental Appeals Board of a pending appeal or through an initial decision becoming final due to lack of an appeal or
(2) The date of final resolution of the proceeding, such as settlement or voluntary dismissal, which is not subject to a petition for rehearing or reconsideration.
(c) If judicial review is sought or taken of the final agency disposition of the underlying controversy, then agency proceedings for the award of fees will be stayed pending completion of judicial review. If, upon completion of review, the court decides what fees to award, if any, then EPA shall have no authority to award fees.
[48 FR 39936, Sept. 2, 1983, as amended at 57 FR 5323, Feb. 13, 1992]
Subpart C—Procedures for Considering Applications
§ 17.21 Filing and service of documents.
An application for an award and any other pleading or document related to the application shall be filed and served on all parties to the proceeding in the same manner as other pleadings in the proceeding.
§ 17.22 Answer to application.
(a) Within 30 calendar days after service of the application, EPA counsel shall file an answer.
(b) If EPA counsel and the applicant believe that they can reach a settlement concerning the award, EPA counsel may file a statement of intent to negotiate. The filing of such a statement shall extend the time for filing an answer an additional 30 days.
(c) The answer shall explain in detail any objections to the award requested and identify the facts relied on to support the objection. If the answer is based on any alleged facts not already reflected in the record of the proceeding, EPA counsel shall include with the answer either a supporting affidavit or affidavits or request for further proceedings under §17.25.
§ 17.23 Comments by other parties.
Any party to a proceeding other than the applicant and EPA counsel may file comments on an application within 30 calendar days after it is served or on an answer within 15 calendar days after it is served.
§ 17.24 Settlement.
A prevailing party and EPA counsel may agree on a proposed settlement of an award before final action on the application, either in connection with a settlement of the underlying proceeding or after the underlying proceeding has been concluded. If the party and EPA counsel agree on a proposed settlement of an award before an application has been filed, the application shall be filed with the proposed settlement.
§ 17.25 Extensions of time and further proceedings.
(a) The Presiding Officer may, on motion and for good cause shown, grant extensions of time, other than for filing an application for fees and expenses, after final disposition in the adversary adjudication.
(b) Ordinarily, the determination of an award will be made on the basis of the written record of the underlying proceeding and the filings required or permitted by the foregoing sections of these rules. However, the adjudicative officer may sua sponte or on motion of any party to the proceedings require or permit further filings or other action, such as an informal conference, oral argument, additional written submissions, or an evidentiary hearing. Such further action shall be allowed only when necessary for full and fair resolution of the issues arising from the application and shall take place as promptly as possible. A motion for further filings or other action shall specifically identify the information sought on the disputed issues and shall explain why the further filings or other action is necessary to resolve the issues.
(c) In the event that an evidentiary hearing is required or permitted by the adjudicative officer, such hearing and any related filings or other action required or permitted shall be conducted pursuant to the procedural rules governing the underlying adversary adjudication.
§ 17.26 Decision on application.
The Presiding Officer shall issue a recommended decision on the application which shall include proposed written findings and conclusions on such of the following as are relevant to the decision:
(a) The applicant's status as a prevailing party;
(b) The applicant's qualification as a “party” under 5 U.S.C. 504(b)(1)(B);
(c) Whether EPA's position as a party to the proceeding was substantially justified;
(d) Whether the special cirumstances make an award unjust;
(e) Whether the applicant during the course of the proceedings engaged in conduct that unduly and unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the matter in controversy; and
(f) The amounts, if any, awarded for fees and other expenses, explaining any difference between the amount requested and the amount awarded.
§ 17.27 Agency review.
The recommended decision of the Presiding Officer will be reviewed by EPA in accordance with EPA's procedures for the type of substantive proceeding involved.
§ 17.28 Judicial review.
Judicial review of final EPA decisions on awards may be sought as provided in 5 U.S.C. 504(c)(2).
§ 17.29 Payment of award.
An applicant seeking payment of an award shall submit a copy of the final decision granting the award to the Office of Financial Management for Processing. A statement that review of the underlying decision is not being sought in the United States courts or that the process for seeking review of the award has been completed must also be included.