Home » Case Summaries » 2011 » Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District, 644 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2011)


Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District, 644 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2011)



Plaintiff, Jensen Family Farms, Inc. (Jensen), a for-profit agricultural corporation,[1] brought suit against Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (District), a political subdivision of the State of California, challenging District rules regulating diesel-powered engines. Seeking permanent injunctive relief, Jensen alleged that: (1) the Clean Air Act (CAA)[2] preempted District Rules 220, 310, and 1010 (collectively, Rules); (2) California law preempted Rules 220 and 310; and (3) the Rules violated substantive due process. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), California’s air pollution control agency, intervened as a defendant. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California rejected each of Jensen’s arguments and granted the District’s and CARB’s (collectively, Defendants) joint motion for judgment on the pleadings.[3] On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants and held that Jensen’s appeal of the denial of its motion for a preliminary injunction was moot.

In 2004, CARB adopted an airborne toxic control measure (ATCM) to regulate particulate matter emissions from diesel-fueled engines.[4] In 2007, the District adopted rules in response to the ATCM: Rule 220 requires District-registration of any diesel engine with fifty brake horsepower or larger that is used in agricultural operations; Rule 310 imposes administrative fees for registration; and Rule 1010 sets emissions standards for stationary diesel engines. Jensen owns and operates stationary and portable diesel engines to provide power to irrigation pumps on its farms. In February 2008, Jensen registered several engines with the District and paid the required fees. In November 2008, Jensen filed the present suit.

The district court concluded that the CAA does not preempt the Rules because Rules 220 and 310 are not “standard[s] or other requirement[s] relating to the control of emissions[,]”[5] and Rule 1010 applies only to stationary sources. The district court also found that Rules 220 and 310 do not violate California law and rejected Jensen’s due process challenge after finding that the Rules have a rational basis. Jensen timely appealed. The question presented to the Ninth Circuit was whether the CAA preempts the District’s Rules. The court reviews a district court’s judgment on the pleadings de novo.[6] 

The Ninth Circuit began by describing the state-federal partnership under the CAA.[7] While states primarily direct regulation of emissions from stationary sources,[8] the federal government sets nationwide emissions standards for mobile sources.[9] The court then noted that in subsections 209(a) and (e), CAA expressly preempts states from setting emissions standards for motor vehicle and “nonroad” mobile sources, respectively.[10]

Given this backdrop, the court turned to Jensen’s federal preemption claim concerning Rules 220 and 310, which apply to diesel engines used in agricultural operations or nonroad sources.[11] The court determined the threshold issue to be whether Rules 220 and 310 fell within the “sphere of implied preemption” created by section 209(e)(2) of the CAA.[12] If so, California would then be required to obtain EPA authorization[13] prior to adopting “standards or other requirements relating to the control of emissions” from nonroad engines.[14] The court concluded that because the Rules did not constitute such standards or requirements for nonroad mobile sources, section 209(e) did not preempt the Rules.

In its analysis, the Ninth Circuit considered the plain language of the clause as indicative of Congress’s preemptive intent,[15] and looked to United States Supreme Court precedent to determine what constitutes a “standard” under the CAA.[16] The court concluded that a “commonsense reading” of Rules 220 and 310 “has nothing to do with emissions standards or the control of emissions.”[17] The court reasoned that providing information about diesel engines and paying fees did not conform to examples of “standards relating to the control of emissions” for federal preemption purposes.[18] The court also expressed confidence that Rules 220 and 310 did not constitute state action that Congress intended to preempt in section 209(e) of the CAA because Rules 220 and 310 would not disrupt national uniformity in emissions rules for nonroad engines and vehicles.[19]

The court next rejected Jensen’s contention that, because Rules 220 and 310 “relate to” emissions standards, they are preempted by section 209(e). The court reasoned that such a broad reading of the “relating to” clause would preempt every rule relating to nonroad engines and vehicles—a result directly at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in Engine Manufacturers Association v. South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast).[20] The court further noted that South Coast did not suggest that the governmental authority’s statutory mission has any bearing on the question of federal preemption. Finally, the court noted that any reliance Jensen placed in Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc.[21] was ill-founded because that case left room for state actions like Rules 220 and 310, which are “too tenuous, remote, or peripheral . . . to have pre-emptive effect.”[22]

The court turned to Rule 1010, which the court determined unquestionably sets emission standards, but by its language applies only to “stationary” engines. The court concluded that the CAA does not preempt Rule 1010 because “stationary” engines as defined in Rule 1010 are mutually exclusive from those “nonroad” engines preempted by section 209(e).

The Ninth Circuit next addressed Jensen’s claims that Rules 220 and 310 are preempted by California law. The court dismissed Jensen’s first claim by noting that Rules 220 and 310 were issued pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code—not the ATCM, as Jensen contended. Jensen also argued that Rules 220 and 310 were preempted by California’s “Portable Equipment Registration Program.”[23] The court noted that any preemptive effects of the Portable Equipment Registration Program are limited to voluntarily registered program participants, and that Jensen did not claim to be such a participant.

Finally, the Ninth Circuit addressed Jensen’s substantive due process challenge to the Rules. Applying rational basis review,[24] the court rejected the claim because Jensen admitted that the Rules serve the legitimate governmental interest of minimizing air pollution from diesel engines. The court also found that Jensen’s argument that the Rules violate Article 13A of the California Constitution was waived because Jensen did not raise the issue in its complaint.[25] 

In summary, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants. In doing so, the court held that Rules 220, 310, and 1010 were not preempted by the CAA; that Rules 220 and 310 were not preempted by state law; and that the Rules did not violate Jensen’s substantive due process rights.

[1]Jensen is incorporated under the laws of California, and its principle place of business is located in Monterey, California. Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control Dist., 644 F.3d 934, 936 (9th Cir. 2011).

[2]42 U.S.C. §§ 7401–7671q (2006).

[3]Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).

[4]See Cal. Code Regs. tit. 17, §§ 93115–93115.15 (2011).

[5]42 U.S.C. § 7543(e)(1) (2006).

[6]Turner v. Cook, 362 F.3d 1219, 1225 (9th Cir. 2004).

[7]Gen. Motors Corp. v. United States, 496 U.S. 530, 532 (1990).

[8]42 U.S.C. § 7416 (2006).

[9]Id. §§ 7521, 7547.

[10]Id. § 7543(a), (e).

[11]Id. § 7543(e)(1).

[12]Pac. Merch. Shipping Ass’n v. Goldstene, 517 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2008).

[13]Nat’l Ass’n of Home Builders v. San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control Dist., 627 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2010).

[14]42 U.S.C. § 7543(e)(2) (2006).

[15]CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658, 664 (1993).

[16]Engine Mfrs. Ass’n v. S. Coast Air Quality Mgmt. Dist., 541 U.S. 246, 252–53 (2004).

[17]Jensen Family Farms, Inc., 644 F.3d 934, 939–40 (9th Cir. 2011) (distinguishing emission limits from equipment and design requirements).

[18]Engine Mfrs. Ass’n, 541 U.S. at 252–53.

[19]Engine Mfrs. Ass’n v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 88 F.3d 1075, 1079–80 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

[20]541 U.S. at 252–53.

[21]504 U.S. 374, 383 (1992).

[22]Id. at 390 (internal quotation marks omitted).

[23]Cal. Code Regs. tit. 13, §§ 2450–2465 (2011).

[24]United States v. Alexander, 48 F.3d 1477, 1491 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that under rational basis review, the burden is on the defendant to show that a statute violates due process by “proving the absence of a rational relationship between [the statute] and a legitimate governmental objective”).

[25]See Hormel v. Helvering, 312 U.S. 552, 556 (1941) (noting that “[o]rdinarily an appellate court does not give consideration to issues not raised below”).

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