Although the wide-ranging state environmental regulations can be complex both scientifically and legally, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, state attorneys general play an important role in the area of environmental policy. In some states, attorneys general have direct enforcement authority, but in all states the attorney general represents state environmental agencies. Sometimes this means enforcing existing statutes and regulations and at other times it means defending challenges to agency permitting decisions or rules brought by corporate or other entities or individuals. Attorneys general have also been known to assemble task forces, propose legislation, and launch other initiatives.
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Federal Court Rules in Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Case
On April 18, 2011, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee filed suit against Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, and the Vermont Public Service Board, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. Entergy alleges Vermont is preempted by federal law from regulating the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and requested a preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment. Vermont, represented by Attorney General Sorrell, refutes Entergy’s claims on a number of grounds.
The trial began on September 12, 2011 and U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued an order and decision on January 20, 2012.
On February 18, 2012 Attorney General William Sorrell filed a notice of appeal on behalf of Vermont with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Vermont argues that district courts ruling "improperly limits the State’s legitimate role in deciding whether Vermont Yankee should operate in Vermont beyond March 21, 2012."
The Vermont Public Service Board has scheduled a status conference on March 9 to determine: whether the board still has authority to grant Vermont Yankee a certificate of public good, following the recent federal court ruling; if so, whether the board should rely on existing testimony or start over; whether Vermont Yankee plans to keep operating and If so, what are the operators going to do with the spent fuel it produces. Permission to store the fuel onsite expires March 21.
North Carolina Attorney General Settles Public Nuisance Case Against Coal-Fired Power Plant Operator
On April 14, 2011, the Attorney General of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, announced that North Carolina, along with the EPA and several other states, had reached a comprehensive settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which will significantly reduce air pollution in the region. Cooper hailed the settlement as a “remarkable accomplishment”. “North Carolina businesses will benefit with lower health care costs and more tourism dollars, and all of us benefit from better health,” Cooper said. “This agreement means our air will be more clear and our waters more clean.”
The litigation spurring the settlement drew the involvement of a number of states on both sides of the issue. After a bench trial, a judge in the Western District of North Carolina sided with North Carolina. North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 593 F. Supp. 2d 812 (W.D.N.C. 2009). On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling. North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir. 2010). In support of TVA’s position on appeal were the state of Alabama, as intervenor, and Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, as amici curaie. In support of North Carolina’s position were the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, as amici curaie.
The settlement came after North Carolina filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.
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