Oil Re-Refining Co. v. Environmental Quality Comm.Annotate this Case
The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the standard of liability for violations of two provisions of the hazardous waste laws: 40 CFR section 263.20(a)(1), as adopted by OAR 340-100-0002(1), and ORS 466.095(1)(c). The Department of Environmental Quality (the department) assessed civil penalties against petitioner, Oil Re-Refining Company (ORRCO), after it determined that ORRCO had accepted hazardous waste without a proper manifest form and treated hazardous waste without a proper permit. ORRCO conceded the factual basis for those allegations but asserted a reasonable-reliance defense: namely, that it reasonably relied on assurances by the generator of the waste that the material ORRCO transported and treated was not a hazardous waste, and, therefore, did not require the manifest and permit at issue. The Environmental Quality Commission (the commission) refused to consider ORRCO’s defense, because it interpreted the relevant provisions as imposing a strict liability standard. The Court of Appeals agreed with the commission’s interpretations and affirmed its final order finding various violations and imposing civil penalties. On appeal to the Supreme Court ORRCO argued that the commission should have considered its reasonable reliance defense and that the commission had erred in interpreting the relevant provisions as imposing a standard of strict liability. The Supreme Court rejected ORRCO’s argument because it ignored statutory and regulatory context indicating that a transporter’s or operator’s level of culpability is immaterial to establishing a violation of the relevant provisions.