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Tuesday, September 26 2017 @ 01:01 AM AEST

TRA & NAR win 9 year case against BATFE

In what will be the biggest story this year in the global hobby rocketry community, Judge Reggie Walton has issued his final ruling in the long running case of NAR/TRA vs BATFE. The communication from TRA President Ken Good spells out the results. At this early stage, I don't know if this judgement will have any effect on rocketry in Australia, but any effect can only be positive. Several Australian states labour under draconian laws that label Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant (APCP) as an explosive. This ruling in an American court has scientifically proven that APCP is not an explosive, and the BATFE listed it without any regard to fact. Once the dust has settled in America and the full effect of this ruling is seen, hopefully we may be able to use it as a precedent for having some of our own laws relaxed. Make no mistake, this win is a huge step forward for legitimising our hobby amongst those agencies that don't understand how safe and responsible we are.

From: Ken Good
Sent: Mon 3/16/2009 11:42 PM
To: TRA Prefects List
Subject: Victory in the Litigation Against the BATFE

March 16, 2009

TRA Prefects and Members:

After a nine-year effort by the leaders of TRA & NAR, the legal team of Joe Egan, Marty Malsch, and John Lawrence, and with the generous and solid support of our members, we have at last won decisively in our litigation against the BATFE. The District Court opinion, issued today by Judge Reggie Walton and appended below, constitutes a clear and full victory, and vindication of what we have asserted these long and difficult years.

As quoted in the opinion, BATFE’s regulation of APCP was found by Judge Walton to be "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." and has been ordered by the Court to be "vacated" or canceled.

NAR President Trip Barber and I will be in communication with our legal counsel over the next several days on exactly what we need to do next to ensure that BATFE complies with this order, and to determine the details and timing of ending our interaction with the agency as a regulator of APCP. We are not making any assumptions concerning the agency’s next actions – they may consider an appeal or other further legal options to try to hang on, but the burden of proof is now on them, and their roadmap of such proof has utterly failed them.

Until we understand the next steps and how we will ensure the agency adheres to this court order, please refrain from confrontations with any BATFE agent, do not surrender or destroy your LEUP, and do not remove material from any magazines yet. We will issue a joint statement at some point in the next several days on our next steps as soon as these are known.

Thank you all again for your unflagging support and your enduring patience.

Ken Good
TRA President


Civil Action No. 00-0273 (RBW)




The plaintiffs filed this action nine years ago challenging the defendant's regulation as an explosive under 18 U.S.C. 841(d) (2006) a chemical compound known as ammonium perchlorate composite propellant ("APCP"), which is commonly used in the motors of hobby rockets. After the Court ruled on the parties' initial cross-motions for summary judgment in this case, the plaintiffs appealed and the District of Columbia Circuit, reviewing the matter de novo, held that the defendant's classification of APCP as an explosive based on its determination that the substance functions by deflagration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A) (2000), because the decision was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law, Tripoli Rocketry Ass'n, Inc. v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 437 F.3d 75 (D.C. Cir. 2006). The Circuit Court therefore remanded the matter to this Court "with instructions to remand the case to the agency for further consideration consistent with [its] decision." Id. at 84. The remand was ordered because the Court found that "[t]he agency ha[d] never provided a clear and coherent explanation for its classification of APCP." Id. at 81. The Court further found that the agency "ha[d] never articulated the standards that guided its analysis" that would permit a court sitting in review to "determine whether [the defendant's] judgment reflect[ed] reasoned decisionmaking." Id.; see also April 20, 2006 Order. In its October 13, 2006 memorandum the agency informed the Court that it had complied with the Circuit's mandate and was affirming its earlier decision to classify APCP as an explosive. Defendant's Notice of Agency Decision (Oct. 13, 2006). The plaintiffs thereafter amended their complaint, the defendant filed its answer to the amended complaint, and both parties crossed-moved again for summary judgment on the certified administrative record.

The parties came before the Court on March 13, 2009, for a hearing on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the parties' written submissions, the administrative record presented to the Court, the applicable legal authority, the oral arguments presented by the parties, and for the reasons expressed by the Court at the hearing on the motion, the Court finds that the agency's decision does not satisfy the standard for evaluating agency rulemaking because it was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). Specifically, the defendant did not adequately explain why it came to the decision it did in light of contrary evidence in the administrative record submitted by the plaintiffs, which tended to show that APCP can burn at a rate lower than that which the defendant designated as the threshold, and "which, if true, . . . would require a change in [the] proposed rule.'" La. Fed. Land Bank Ass'n, FLCA v. Farm Credit Admin., 336 F.3d 1075, 1080 (D.C. Cir. 2003); see D&F Afonso Realty Trust v. Garvey, 216 F.3d 1191, 1195 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Public Citizen, Inc. v. F.A.A., 988 F.2d 186, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1993) ("'[t]he requirement that agency action not be arbitrary or capricious includes a requirement that the agency adequately explain its result . . . .'"). Here, the agency's shortcoming was its failure to articulate any rationale for finding that the relevant and significant evidence in the record that conflicted with its position was unpersuasive, which it seemingly out-of-hand dismissed merely because it was contrary to the agency's ultimate conclusion.

As to the appropriate remedy to impose for the agency's failing, the Court has discretion to choose between vacatur of the agency's decision or remand to the agency without vacatur. See Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., 429 F.3d 1136, 1151 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (quoting Allied-Signal, Inc. v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, 988 F.2d 146, 150-51 (D.C. Cir.1993) ("[T]his court is not without discretion. 'The decision whether to vacate depends on the seriousness of the order's deficiency . . . and the disruptive consequences of an interim change that may itself be changed.'"). Considering the number of years that have elapsed during which time the plaintiffs have awaited final resolution of the merits of their claims, the fact that this matter has already been remanded once to the agency for further action consistent with the Circuit's decision, and it appearing that vacating the agency's decision will not pose any serious threat to the public's health or safety, the Court will vacate the agency's decision to classify APCP is an explosive pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 841(d).

[Should the defendant choose to reinstate the policy that ACPC is properly classifiable as an explosive within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 841(d), nothing in this decision prevents it from redrafting this rule in accordance with the tenets of the APA or from seeking an explicit statutory classification from Congress.]

Because the plaintiffs have conceded that were the Court to grant summary judgment in their favor on Count One of their third amended complaint "will moot all of remaining counts" of their complaint, Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment on Count 1 at 1-2 n.1, the Court having now granted summary judgment on Count One will dismiss all the plaintiffs' remaining counts of the complaint as moot.
Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. It is further
ORDERED that the defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED. It is further
ORDERED that the defendant's decision to classify APCP as an explosive under 18 U.S.C. 841(d) is VACATED. It is further
ORDERED that the remaining counts of plaintiffs' third amended complaint are DISMISSED as moot and therefore this case is dismissed in its entirety.
SO ORDERED this 16th day of March, 2009.

United States District Judge

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