OPINION OF THE COURT
ADAMS, Circuit Judge.
This case involves an important question regarding the interpretation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA).
FWPCA encompasses a complex statutory scheme that seeks "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters" in order to achieve a "national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985."
Three interrelated provisions form the heart of the program and are the focus of this litigation. Section 301(b)
Thus, the legislative structure is that general standards of pollution control are to be promulgated under sections 301 and 304, and that these standards are then to be implemented in particular cases through the use of section 402 permits.
The sequence of administrative action contemplated by Congress has never taken hold in the iron and steel industry. The section 304 guidelines for that industry were not established by October 18, 1973; indeed, none are in force today.
On December 31, 1974, the EPA issued a permit to Bethlehem, pursuant to its stop-gap authority, containing effluent limitations and compliance schedules, and requiring attainment of final compliance levels by July 1, 1977.
A significant development occurred subsequent to the filing of the petition for review in the present case that bears heavily on the resolution of this proceeding. On June 3, 1976, EPA circulated a memorandum which stated that, in certain instances, it would not undertake enforcement actions against dischargers for failure to meet the July 1, 1977 deadline.
In a letter commenting on the impact of the ECSL scheme on the present action, and at oral argument, EPA stated that Bethlehem, having already received a final permit, is not eligible for an ECSL. However, EPA informed us that its stipulation with Bethlehem has the same effect as an ECSL and that enforcement action was, perforce, highly unlikely.
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to section 509(b)(1) of FWPCA,
As the first step in our analysis, we must explore the problem whether this case has become moot. As noted, EPA has told the Court that, because of the stipulation between the parties, it does not contemplate bringing enforcement action against Bethlehem when the projected failure to comply with the July 1, 1977 deadline comes to pass. Since the stipulation, however, does not obviate all the adverse consequences that might be visited upon Bethlehem because of its inability to conform to the deadline date, we conclude that a live case or controversy still exists.
Two considerations shape our determination. Although EPA made clear that it had no intention to bring either a civil or a criminal action against Bethlehem, it conceded that it could not foreclose that possibility in the future. A more significant factor affecting the question of mootness, however, is the provision in section 505 of FWPCA
At the core of Bethlehem's argument on appeal is its contention that, in spite of the explicit provision of the July 1, 1977 deadline in the legislation, Congress could not possibly have intended to subject corporations to sanctions for failing to comply with time limits that proved to be unattainable. In such circumstances, it continues, Congress surely would intend for EPA to have the discretion to grant extensions to companies that were undertaking good faith compliance efforts.
Bethlehem also asserts that the legislative history contains many statements indicating that Congress was attentive to the social and economic ramifications of the standards to be established under 301, 302 and 304 of FWPCA. In particular, it stresses the observations of Senator Randolph, a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee:
The draconian consequences of EPA's strict insistence on the July 1, 1977 deadline, Bethlehem contends, is inconsistent with Congressional awareness of the unwelcome economic impact of the overly zealous pursuit of environmental goals.
Although we are sympathetic to the plight of Bethlehem and similarly situated dischargers, examination of the terms of the statute, the legislative history of FWPCA and the case law has convinced us that July 1, 1977 was intended by Congress to be a rigid guidepost. The portions of the legislative history cited by Bethlehem speak to the economic and social consequences of the substance of guidelines established under sections 301, 302 and 304. Indeed, section 304(b)(1)(B) explicitly mandates that the Administrator is to consider social and economic costs in the context of assessing the best practicable control technology available.
There are no comparable expressions of concern with the economic consequences of the July 1, 1977 date. Instead, all discussion of this date in the legislative history indicates that Congress viewed it as an inflexible target. The most important statement on the significance of the July 1, 1977
This view was echoed by Representative Jones, a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee:
The import of these statements is reinforced by a further portion of the legislative history. H.R. 11896, the House version of the bill that ultimately became FWPCA, contained a provision authorizing EPA to extend the compliance deadline in cases where there was a showing of hardship upon the discharger.
We are aware that our interpretation of FWPCA may work a hardship on Bethlehem, which is doing everything within its power to achieve the required levels of effluent limitation as expeditiously as possible. However, the cases in general, and in the environmental field in particular, teach that the appropriate body from which to seek relief in situations such as the present one is the Congress.
The Supreme Court examined a comparable problem in Union Electric Co. v. EPA,
The decision in State Water Control Board v. Train,
Section 301(b)(1) of FWPCA
Judge Mehrige's opinion expressed sympathy for the predicament in which the municipalities had been placed by the federal government's failure to meet its statutory responsibility. But he ruled that there was no warrant in the legislation for granting an extension of the compliance date.
Consequently, on the basis of the legislative history and the adjudicated cases, we hold that the EPA is without authority to grant an extension, in NPDES permits, of the July 1, 1977 date.
Bethlehem has also asserted that if FWPCA is construed to require compliance by July 1, 1977, the Act, then, deprives it of the due process of law guaranteed by the fifth amendment. It would appear, however, that the federal government's power over interstate commerce is sufficiently broad to encompass this effort to confront the pressing problem of improving the quality of our nation's waters.
We have examined the other contentions raised by Bethlehem and the amicus and find them to be without merit. The petition for review will therefore be dismissed.
Bethlehem has also brought EPA's delay in promulgating guidelines to our attention, urging that it buttresses its assertion that Congress wrote many unrealistic compliance dates into FWPCA. It also submits that when EPA's action was challenged, the courts granted the agency a measure of relief. See Reply Brief at 6. We note, however, that the D.C. Circuit, in National Resources Defense Council, see note 8 supra, ruled that EPA's failure to issue iron and steel guidelines pursuant to the Congressional timetable was improper.
Administration officials strongly supported the inclusion of such authority. Russell E. Train, then Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, stated that: