Steel Company v. Citizens for Better Environment Page 20

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Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 06, 1997 in Steel Company v. Citizens for Better Environment

Antonin Scalia:

It's completed.

There's no blank in the whole thing.

He just writes in the wrong elements and the wrong quantities.

Sanford M. Stein:

--But we think Congress would not give such an obviously glaring omission in a statute.

The complete language connotes some kind of completeness in terms of proper and accurately complete.

That's what complete seems to me.

Stephen G. Breyer:

But the language certainly is open, and if it's open, why wouldn't it make a lot of sense to say, in the instance where there's some reason to think they'll do it again, they did it before, maybe they'll do it again.

Or they didn't do it before, maybe they won't do it again.

In such a case, it authorizes the suit.

Sanford M. Stein:

It would be inconsistent to apply... if we're talking about under, still, and the timeliness element, it would be inconsistent to apply the timely provisions of section 312 and 313, because Congress had readily available options which it used in other statutes.

It could have said, failure to complete and timely submit.

It could have said, failure to have completed and submitted.

It had many options.

It could have given the opportunity to--

John Paul Stevens:

Of course, it could have used the language it did in all these other statutes, too.

But what's your response to his argument when Congress amended the other statute in response to Gwaltney they just didn't adopt this route?

Sanford M. Stein:

--Well, by amending the Clean Air Act in 1970... 1990, to say that the... they can sue for a past violation in the event there is evidence of a repeated violation certainly doesn't amend EPCRA.

It only amends the Clean Air Act, or any of the other statutes that use these various formulations in citizen's suits.

United Musical drew strength from the fact that Congress amended the Clean Air Act but not EPCRA to say EPCRA must mean what the citizen's 60-day cure periods mean in 17 other statutes, all 17 of which were cited in a footnote in Hallstrom.

So looking at the case as a whole, looking at the context, we think that--

Antonin Scalia:

A later Congress' amendment doesn't necessarily show what the earlier Congress meant, anyway.

I mean--

Sanford M. Stein:

--No.

Antonin Scalia:

--It's as reasonable to think the amendment was meant to change what preexisted as it is to think that it was meant to confirm what preexisted, isn't it?

Sanford M. Stein:

But we don't think there's any likelihood that Congress would have done that without citing any of that in its legislative history of the Clean Air Act.

William H. Rehnquist:

Thank you, Mr. Stein.

Sanford M. Stein:

Thank you.

William H. Rehnquist:

The case is submitted.

The honorable court is now adjourned until tomorrow at ten o'clock.