OCTOBER TERM, 1991
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
No. 90-1341. Argued December 3, 1991—Decided April 21, 1992*
The Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) prohibit the discharge or disposal of pollutants without a permit, assign primary authority to issue permits to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and allow EPA to authorize a State to supplant the federal permit program with one of its own under specified circumstances. Respondent State sued petitioner Department of Energy (DOE) over its operation of a uranium-processing plant in Ohio, seeking, among other relief, both state and federal civil penalties for past violations of the CWA and RCRA and of state laws enacted to supplant those federal statutes. Although conceding, inter alia, that both statutes render federal agencies liable for "coercive" fines imposed to induce compliance with injunctions or other judicial orders designed to modify behavior prospectively, DOE asserted sovereign immunity from liability for "punitive" fines imposed to punish past violations. The District Court held that both statutes waived federal sovereign immunity from punitive fines, by both their federal-facilities and citizen-suit sections. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, holding that Congress had waived immunity as to punitive fines in the CWA's federal-facilities section and RCRA's citizen-suit section, but not in RCRA's federal-facilities section.
Held: Congress has not waived the National Government's sovereign immunity from liability for civil fines imposed by a State for past violations of the CWA or RCRA. Pp. 615-629. (a) This Court presumes congressional familiarity with the common rule that any waiver of the Government's sovereign immunity must be unequivocal. See United States v. Mitchell, 445 U. S. 535, 538-539. Such waivers must be construed strictly in favor of the sovereign and not enlarged beyond what the language requires. See, e. g., Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club, 463 U. S. 680, 685-686. P. 615. (b) Although both the CWA and RCRA citizen-suit sections authorize a State to commence a civil action "against any person (including . . .
*Together with No. 90-1517, Ohio et al. v. United States Department of Energy, also on certiorari to the same court.
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