Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, Inc. Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Petitioners’ powerplants were subject to the Clean Water Act because they had cooling water intake structures that threatened aquatic organisms. Respondents, environmental groups and various States, challenged the EPA’s Phase II rules underthat applied to existing facilities. The EPA expressly declined to mandate closed-cycle cooling systems in part because of the cost. The Second Circuit held that the EPA was not permitted to use cost-benefit analysis in determining the content of regulations promulgated under. Petitioner sought review and the Court reversed the judgment, and remanded the action for further proceedings.


“1) Did the Federal Circuit err by using the machine-or-transformation test in determining patentable subject matter?2) Does the machine-or-transformation test prevent patent protection for many business methods and thus contradict congressional intent that patents protect “methods of doing or conducting business.””


“Yes. The Supreme Court held that the EPA was permitted to use a cost-benefit analysis in setting national performance standards for cooling water intake structures. With Justice Antonin G. Scalia writing for the majority and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito, the Court reasoned that under 33 U.S.C. 1326(b), the EPA has discretion to determine the extent of adverse environmental impact that should be reduced in setting national performance standards for cooling water intake structures. With this discretion, comes the authority to use a cost-benefit analysis in setting national performance standards.Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote separately, concurring in part and dissenting in part. He agreed with the majority that the EPA was authorized to use a cost-benefit analysis in making its determinations. However, he noted that the drafting and legislative history of 33 U.S.C. Section 1326(b) indicate it was intended to restrict the use of cost-benefit analysis and consequently he found the EPA’s reasoning deficient in employing its cost-benefit analysis. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented and was joined by Justices David H. Souter and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He argued that the plain language of the relevant statute indicates that the EPA was required to set a standard that cooling water intake systems use the “best technology available” and therefore impermissibly used a cost-benefit analysis in setting the new standard.”

Case Information

Citation: 556 US (2009)
Granted: Apr 14, 2008
Argued: Dec 2, 2008
Decided: Apr 1, 2009
Case Brief: 2009