Attorney General Pam Bondi is seeking $5.48 billion in a federal lawsuit against BP Exploration & Production In., BO America Production Co., and Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. for lost revenue to the state of Florida. The lawsuit seeks to recover actual and potential lost revenue from the impact of the spill that includes lost sales and taxes for expected economic losses. The lawsuit is separate from other litigation including Mississippi.
Attorney General Doug Gansler released his 2012 Chesapeake Bay and Maryland Watersheds Environmental Audit. After his visits to four of the Bay’s tributaries AG Gansler highlighted the need for enhanced enforcement of pollution laws and increased public awareness of environmental issues.
New Hampshire attorney general Michael Delaney and Commissioner Thomas Burack announced a jury verdict of $236 million in the suit the state brought against ExxonMobil. The oil company was deemed liable for water contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE.
Arkansas state attorney general Dustin McDaniel’s office announced the beginning of an investigation into the cause and impact of the Mayflower oil spill. Thousands of gallons of crude oil have leaked into a residential neighborhood near Lake Conway, significantly damaging the state’s environment.
Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt has filed three briefs in the environmental Tarrant Regional Water District vs. Herrmann, a case being reviewed before the Oklahoma Supreme Court that could affect interstate water allowances between Oklahoma and Texas.
Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to stay the ruling against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was denied, yet Judge Janis Jack’s original order was amended to allow the TCEQ to approve water permits deemed “necessary to protect the public’s health and safety.” Last week’s original ruling had found the state’s water management guilty for the death of 23 whooping cranes.
Attorneys for the office of Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrel, argued that the Vermont Legislatures decision to close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant was based on financial considerations and not safety. Federal District Judge Garvan Murtha had ruled that state lawmakers had overstepped their authority by considering the plant’s safety, which is exclusively regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Due to the complexity of the case a decision is not expected for six months to a year.
The Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington are supporting federal regulation of particulate matter in the air, a pollutant that leads to respiratory symptoms and diseases. The new annual standard would limit particulate matter to no higher than 12 micrograms per cubic meter and a daily standard not to exceed 30 micrograms per cubic meter. Under a consent decree the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into with the states and several public health organizations, the agency is required to sign the final rule on a national ambient air quality standard for particulate matter by Dec. 14.
The case is expected to be argued as early as November 26th before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The court granted Vermont’s motion to expedite oral arguments on October 3rd and Entergy submitted its reply brief on November 9th. The central question of the case is whether Vermont has the authority to not renew the operational license of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and thereby shutdown the plant, or whether that authority is preempted by the Federal Government which renewed the plants operating license for another 20 years.
A coalition of eleven attorneys general have filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of New York after the EPA failed to meet a deadline in October of 2011 setting new soot pollution standards. Soot pollution is also called fine particulate matter pollution and is a result of diesel engines and power plants. EPA last issued standards in 2006 that were deemed too lax following a lawsuit by 17 states in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The court remanded the standards to the EPA to issue new standards to better protect public health. The states that have filed the current lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The case is U.S. v. Jackson, 2-cv-10064, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced a US District Court judge ruled in favor of North Dakota and a local power provider on a motion to resolve a dispute between the state and the Environmental Protection Agency on air quality rules. North Dakota argues that the new rules would require two power plants in the state to upgrade to expensive pollution-control technology that might not work. The federal judge held that North Dakota’s findings about the technology were not unreasonable and that the EPA, who had the burden of proof, did not meet their burden for the dispute resolution process. In a statement praising the ruling Stenehjem said, “These issues are about North Dakota's sovereignty, its authority, and its demonstrated commitment to protect its environment and economic well-being.” Stenehjem also said he hoped the ruling would encourage the EPA to adopt North Dakota’s proposal for the power plants.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has sued Grain Processing Corp. over alleged violations of state air and water pollution control laws. According to Miller, the company emitted more than the allowable amount of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, failed to maintain equipment used to prevent excess emissions, failed to get proper construction permits, and failed to comply with notification and reporting requirements. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for the violations and an injunction requiring the grain processor to comply with state law.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged the operator of a tire scrap facility for violating state waste disposal laws. According to Abbott, the operator of the facility failed to get the required permits to burn outdoors and scrap tires, prevent fire outbreaks, and remove the unauthorized tire collection. The charges follow a fire at the facility in early August that burned approximately 22,000 scrap tires. McGraw’s suit seeks a penalty of up to $25,000 per day the facility was in violation of the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act.
The Delaware River Basin Commission has indefinitely postponed a meeting that was supposed to take place November 21st to vote on natural gas regulations that would lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Delaware River Basin. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman supported the move saying, “This delay further demonstrates that the proposed regulations for fracking in the Delaware River basin are not ready to see the light of day. Without a full, fair and open review of the potential risks of fracking in the basin, the public will continue to question the federal government's ability to protect public health and environment." Schneiderman has sued the federal government over alleged failures regarding fracking studies. The delay follows an announcement by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who is a member of the Commission, that he would not support the regulations.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced a temporary restraining order against the owners of foundry Didion and Sons. According to Koster, the owners violated several Missouri environmental laws by illegally dumping and storing toxic substances. The owners were allegedly evasive about having their foundry inspected while in the middle of demolishing buildings on the site, prompting state Department of Natural Resource officials to obtain a search warrant, which revealed the alleged violations. In a statement Koster said “Taking care of our environment is a responsibility we all share. This office takes that responsibility seriously and will continue to vigorously enforce the laws governing the use of our natural resources.”
A federal district court judge ruled that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s lawsuit against the administrator of BP’s oil spill fund will be heard in state court. This decision follows an earlier move by the fund’s administrator to have the lawsuit heard in federal court. According to Hood’s office, the lawsuit was filed in response to alleged failures on behalf of the BP fund administrator to provide documents regarding Mississippi claims.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed suit against the owner of Missouri bar The Upper Deck. According to Koster’s office and the state DNR, the owner violated state clean water laws when he failed to register before operating his septic tank, among other related violations. The suit alleges the owner failed to renew his operating permit, illegally discharged into Missouri waters, failed to follow discharge limits, and failed to submit required annual sludge and discharge monitoring reports. The owner could be fined as much as $10,000 per day for each violation, though a spokeswoman for Koster’s office said the state would likely work with the owner to reduce the fine amount.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took issue with new regulations on hydrofracking proposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The proposed rules would permit natural gas companies to collectively drill a maximum of 300 natural gas wells when the moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale of the Delaware River Basin is lifted. Once the limit on wells is reached the Commission would have to vote to allow any additional drilling. According to Schneiderman, the regulations are inadequate given the lack of an environmental impact study. In a statement regarding the lack of an environmental impact study Schneiderman said the "federal government does not have a complete understanding of the health and safety risks fracking poses, even as it stands to open up the Delaware River Basin to thousands of new gas wells.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement with high fructose corn syrup supplier Tate & Lyle Ingredients America LLC over alleged violations of state clean water and wetland laws. According to Coakley, the distributor dumped water used to clean the inside of corn syrup tanker trucks into a culvert behind their plant, which then flowed into a nearby swamp and caused vegetation in the swamp to turn black. Coakley’s office says rinse water caused approximately 12,000 square feet of damage to vegetated wetlands. Under the terms of the agreement Tate & Lyle will pay $105,000 in penalties and restore the damaged wetland.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against Charles Cooper LLC, a concentrated animal feeding operation or CAFO, alleging violations of the state’s Clean Water Law. According to Koster, the CAFO polluted a creek by applying wastewater to farm fields. Additionally, Koster alleges the CAFO breached an agreement to correct prior violations and pay a penalty. The suit asks the court to require the CAFO comply with the Clean Water Law, pay the $9,000 suspended from an earlier penalty, and assess a new penalty of up to $10,000 per day per violation.
Oil giant BP has agreed to pay $50 million in fines to Texas following an explosion at an oil refinery in 2005 that unlawfully released pollutants into the air. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the fine will settle all state claims against BP over emissions at the refinery. At a news conference Abbott said, "This sends a strong, clear message ... that you don't mess with Texas air quality.” The fine against BP is the largest ever for a violation of the Texas Clean Air Act at a single facility.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced the state is suing Minnesota over carbon dioxide emissions restrictions that could affect power sales in North Dakota. In a statement Stenehjem said “It is unfortunate it has come to this. As Minnesota seeks to rebuild its economy, it will need energy. Much of that energy will need to come from sources outside Minnesota. Over the last four years, we in North Dakota have made every effort to convince Minnesota officials to rescind this act.” Stenehjem filed after Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill that would have overturned the restrictions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine determined that permits granted by the state Environmental Protection Agency to Patriot Water Treatment and the City of Warren to process gas and oil well brine were not legal. According to DeWine, the permits issued “did not have a basis in law.” In the ruling DeWine also stated, “The safety of Ohio's water is too important to put at risk as most wastewater treatment plants don't currently have the proper technology for adequately treating fracking fluids." DeWine has asked the Environmental Review Appeals Commission to dismiss Patriot’s appeals and send the permits back to the Ohio EPA director for further action. Ohio EPA says DeWine’s ruling on the permits was a declaration of error on behalf of the EPA and is consistent with their determinations.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd. alleging environmental violations following a train derailment in which ethanol-filled tankers caught fire. According to Illinois authorities, while the fire burned off much of the spilled ethanol an unknown quantity seeped into the soil. There are at least three wells for drinking water in the area around the spill. Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to order Iowa Interstate completely cleanup the area and pay all costs associated with the cleanup. Additionally, Madigan and Iowa Interstate entered an agreement with the court, which the court granted, requiring Iowa Interstate to work with the state on cleanup while the lawsuit pends, including conducting surveys and reporting test results. In a statement Madigan said, “With an ethanol spill of this magnitude, we must ensure that the proper steps are taken to clean up the area and protect the public’s health and safety during that process.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is warning fellow state Attorneys General over data used by the Environmental Protection Agency to measure emissions from natural gas production. According to Pruitt, the EPA is relying on inaccurate methods to measure methane emissions into the atmosphere from natural gas production. Addressing the data collection methods Pruitt said, “This misstep or deception by the EPA has resulted in new figures that are faulty, unreasonable and based on a distorted understanding of how gas drilling operates.” Pruitt’s letter to other Attorneys General follows a letter he sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this month expressing concerns over the data collection methods.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed suit against a plastic bottling company and two bottled-water companies over allegations that designating their plastic containers as biodegradable is false and illegal. In California, it is illegal to label plastic food or beverage containers as biodegradable. In a statement Harris said, "Californians are committed to recycling and protecting the environment, but these efforts are undermined by the false and misleading claims these companies make.” Harris’ suit seeks to prohibit sale of the allegedly mislabeled products and up to $2,500 in penalties per violation.
Five states—Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case involving the threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes. The states hope to force the Army Corps of Engineers to work faster to study permanently separating the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to prevent Asian Carp invasions. In a news release Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said, “Time is running out for the Great Lakes and we can’t afford to wait years before the federal government takes action.” The states previously appealed their case to the Supreme Court on a different legal theory but the petition for certiorari was denied.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied a request from a Texas water district to appeal an earlier decision upholding an Oklahoma law that restricts exporting stream water from the state. The Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas sought to have the courts overturn the Oklahoma law and require the state to allow them to purchase water. In a statement about the decision Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said that the decision “underscores that the people of Oklahoma should not be mandated through litigation to shape water policy. Water is an important resource that is vital to Oklahomans, and my office will continue to defend our state's interests.”
Seven states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia—filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency in the legal challenge over the Cross-State Air Pollution rule. The rule would require some states to significantly reduce emissions of air pollutants that adversely impact pollution levels in downwind states and is being challenged by several states. In a statement Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said, "While Connecticut has stringent laws controlling sources of air pollution emissions, the same cannot be said of other states. The EPA proposed a rule that controls sources of pollution in other states, which would otherwise blow into our region. We are working to ensure that this rule is not overturned.''
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and attorneys general for 18 other states filed an amicus brief in the case of Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The amicus brief was filed in support of Oregon State Forester Doug Decker’s petition for certiorari to the U.S Supreme Court. The brief argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed to give deference to the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act determining that logging roads are not point sources. In a statement about the brief Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Congress has held that states are the appropriate entities to determine best management practices for protecting our waters and wildlife from stormwater runoff related to timber harvesting. The Ninth Circuit's ruling contradicts more than 30 years of practice and Congress' and the EPA's directives.”
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that a Wisconsin couple was ordered to pay $99,999 in fines by a judge for shoreline damage. According to Van Hollen, the couple built a stone wall without a permit which damaged more than 10,000 square feet of shoreline and lake bed on the Upper Nashotah Lake. The couple also allegedly dumped large amounts of sand into the lake without a permit. The judge also ordered the couple to buy $5,000 worth of native plants for their property on the lake.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s office announced a settlement agreement with the Sparrows Point steel mill for alleged violations of Maryland pollution laws. According to Gansler’s office, the violations occurred when a blast furnace caught fire after gases escaped due to a pressure surge and forced a raw material into release valves, which then ignited. The agreement between Gansler’s office, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and Sparrows Point requires the mill to pay a $135,000 penalty and prevent unnecessary openings of the pressure relief valves.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court asking the court to uphold a permit to construct a power plant in the state. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a permit allowing Sunflower Electric to build a coal power plant in the state and has since been sued by the Sierra Club. Schmidt’s office is defending the state and the Department in the suit. In a statement Schmidt said, “No law authorizes or requires KDHE to refuse to license an electric generating plant because its fuel source is coal.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed changes to the Cross-State Air Pollution rule that the agency says will soften the rule. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is suing the EPA over the rule, said the revisions were minor. The revisions include allocating additional allowances for emissions in a state trading program, most of which will go to Texas for sulfur dioxide emissions. Abbott says his office will continue their legal challenge against the Cross-State rule.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withhold a 20 year operating permit to the Pilgrim Nuclear Station until the safety of the plant is confirmed. Coakley said that the radiation leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, which shares the same basic design with the Pilgram facility, underscored the need for safety reviews of U.S. reactor pools. NRC has not indicated when it will make a decision on the future of the plant.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office ruled that the city of Dover, Delaware must disclose the price citizens are paying for power from a new solar installation. The decision came after Biden’s office received complaints that the city released a redacted version of the power contract that excluded per-hour price for power. Dover allegedly stated that releasing the price would damage the competitive standing of LS Power Group. The city says it is making an unredacted copy available and LS Power has decided not to contest Biden’s decision.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking federal officials to release information on enforcement of fishing laws in Massachusetts. Fishermen in Massachusetts have complained that officers and attorneys who enforce federal fisheries laws have been abusive and fining excessively. Coakley asked the U.S. Department of Commerce for all documents relating to disciplinary actions taken by the DOC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Marine Fisheries Service. The inquiry follows an order by the Commerce Secretary to return tens of thousands of dollars in fines to fishermen that were found to be excessive or unjust.
A judge ordered the 7-Eleven corporation to pay $25,000 for violations of the Missouri Air Conservation Act following a lawsuit by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. According to Koster, nine 7-Eleven stores in Missouri were determined to be in violation of Missouri regulations requiring maintenance of gasoline vapor recovery systems. In a statement Koster said, “Missouri’s Air Conservation Law was enacted to protect both citizens’ health and our environment. The Attorney General’s Office will work to ensure these laws are followed and violations are corrected.” The judge also ordered 7-Eleven to pay all court costs.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced six criminal charges against William Clark for violating the state’s Critical Area law—the first criminal charges to be filed under the law. According to Gansler, Clark is charged with illegally clearing trees in violation of critical area and buffer regulations. Gansler filed the charges after the matter was referred to his office.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office filed charges against a sewage treatment plant employee for allegedly falsifying environmental reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. According to Kelly, the employee submitted false results to the state DEP in the Discharge Monitoring Report and in some instances failed to conduct tests or collect samples. The employee is charged with public records tampering, unsworn falsification to authorities, and unlawful conduct.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office is joining Nebraska and five other states in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the new Cross-State Air Pollution rule. The lawsuit alleges that any anticipated benefits of the rule are far outweighed by the costs of implementing it. In a press release Bondi said, “We will continue to protect Florida consumers and businesses from unnecessary and costly federal regulation.” The new rule is scheduled to take effect January 2012.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to block a toxic-emissions rule from taking effect. According to Abbott’s petition, Texas was not given enough time to comment on the rules. Specifically, Texas alleges the state was not given a chance to comment on a new EPA model used to draft the rule. The challenged rule is the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which is also being challenged by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent new air pollution regulations from taking effect. According to Schmidt, the new regulation will cost Kansas utilities hundreds of millions of dollars for new equipment by January 1, 2012. The EPA says the new “Cross-State Air Pollution rule” is meant to prevent air pollution from a source in one state from negatively impacting the air quality of other states. In a statement about the rule Schmidt said, “It will be physically impossible for all of our utilities to comply, which means that either Kansans will be paying higher rates to buy out-of-state electricity or there simply will not be enough electricity to meet Kansas demand after the first of the year.”
Oral arguments concluded in a lawsuit brought by Entergy Nuclear challenging Vermont’s denial of an extension of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant’s operating license. Entergy brought the lawsuit maintaining that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the 20 year extension preempted Vermont. Vermont Attorney General, William Sorrell, defended the state’s decision not to renew the license arguing that Vermont had many reasons beyond safety factored into the decision. A decision is expect this fall. (Read More about the case here)
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen gave testimony to the state Assembly Natural Resources Committee regarding Asian carp and the ongoing lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers. Van Hollen told the Committee the lawsuit by Wisconsin and four other states has made the federal government take the threat of Asian carp invasion seriously. While a federal court denied the states’ request for a preliminary injunction closing the connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, Van Hollen pointed out the appeals court agreed the states proved Asian carp pose a likely threat to Great Lakes fisheries.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has joined a lawsuit by Mira Loma Village against Riverside County over its approval of an industrial project in the area. Mira Loma residents sued the county after it approved a project for 1.4 million square feet of industrial buildings and warehouses that would cover 60 acres of land and add 1,500 diesel truck trips through the neighborhood. The lawsuit alleges that Riverside County did not adequately analyze or mitigate the health impacts to residents from the project. The Mira Loma community currently has diesel levels higher than state and federal air quality standards. In a statement about the suit Harris said, "All California residents could be put at risk if developments like this are pushed through by officials without appropriate and legally-mandated consideration of the environmental effects on health and welfare.”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has reached a proposed settlement with Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Chevron Stations Inc. over allegations Chevron violated state hazardous materials and waste laws. Harris filed suit against Chevron last week, alleging the company tampered with or disabled leak detection devices on underground gasoline storage tanks, among other charges of improper maintenance of the storage tanks. The settlement requires Chevron to pay $24.5 million, as well as operate a statewide compliance program to train employees and track how the underground tanks are monitored. The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against a Missouri couple operating the Class Act Family Fitness Center, alleging violations of state drinking water laws. According to Koster, Class Act’s owners violated the Missouri Safe Drinking Water Act by using an unapproved farm well as a public water supply. Koster’s allegations of drinking water violations include failure to obtain proper authorization to construct a “non-community water system,” obtain a permit for drinking water, and meet microbiological contamination level requirements. The violations came to the attention of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources after 30 people became ill following contact with the fitness center water, including 15 cases of E. coli infection. The suit asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction that requires the fitness center to comply with state law, construct a new public water system in compliance with state law, and to pay civil penalties and court costs.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against Clemens Development Co., a Miami Valley housing developer, over permit and pollution violations. According to DeWine’s office, Clemens failed to get necessary permits for construction activities. Additionally, DeWine’s office says storm water full of sediment from the construction site ran into the Little Sugar Creek. DeWine’s office further alleges Clemens ignored multiple notices between 2007 and 2010 regarding violations. The lawsuit asks the court for fines, to require the development to meet state code, and require future home owners be informed of the situation surrounding the development.
Following a lawsuit last week by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, smelter H. Kramer and Co. agreed to take action to reduce lead emissions from its plant in a preliminary injunction filed with the court. Madigan filed suit against the company over allegations from the state Environmental Protection Agency that the plant exceeded federal air quality emissions standards for lead in in 2010. The injunction requires the plant to immediately reduce emissions through such actions as updating pollution control technology and cleaning gravel contaminated with lead. According to Madigan’s office, the plant has already implemented some lead emission reduction techniques, including removing a smoke stack, repairing holes in the roof, and installing high-speed vertical doors on the buildings.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office moved to dismiss a lawsuit by senior operators at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Seven operators at Vermont Yankee filed the suit, alleging violations of civil liberties should Vermont Yankee closed due to the state’s unwillingness to grant a new certificate of public good. The lawsuit also alleges the state is preempted from taking action over Vermont Yankee under the Atomic Energy Act. In the lawsuit Sorrell’s office states, "Operators' due process claim is without merit because Operators do not have a constitutionally cognizable property interest in VY operating beyond March 21, 2012. Operators are asking this court to accept the radical notion that whenever someone obtains a federal license, that person becomes legally injured if anyone takes any action that interferes with the full use of that license." This lawsuit follows a separate lawsuit filed by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, the current owner of Vermont Yankee, in April also alleging preemption under the Atomic Energy Act.
Attorneys General from six states—Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—called for a cooperative campaign to cut off the link between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to prevent invasive species, such as Asian carp. The Attorneys General sent a letter to the Attorneys General in 27 other states asking them to join the campaign. Speaking about the invasive species issue Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said, “We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters. This is not just a Great Lakes issue. By working together, we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it's too late." Five of the Great Lakes states are suing the Army Corps of Engineers over a waterway network that creates an artificial link between Lake Michigan and a tributary of the Mississippi river.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office announced through a spokeswoman that it "will pursue every available legal remedy" to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule from being implemented in Texas. The new rule looks to reduce power plant air pollution, but Texas officials are concerned the rule will cause coal-based plants to shut down and cause an electricity shortage in the state. Abbott’s decision follows a request by the Texas Railroad Commission for Abbot’s office to take legal action concerning EPA’s new rule.
As part of the ongoing litigation surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell filed a motion opposing an attempt by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, the owners of the facility, to bar three of the state’s expert witnesses. Last week Entergy filed a motion in limine with the U.S District Court for the District of Vermont in Brattleboro asking the court to bar Peter Bradford, Bruce Hinkley, and William Steinhurst from testifying as expert witnesses. Sorrell argues that the witnesses are essential to the case and that Entergy is being hypocritical by attempting to prevent the testimony. According to Sorrell, the witnesses are necessary to testify about the preemptive scope of the Atomic Energy Act, as well as the Vermont General Assembly’s motives in passing some of the legislation at the heart of the lawsuit. Sorrell notes that his office was prompted to offer the expert testimony to dispute Entergy’s claims that Vermont legislators had improper motives in passing the legislation. Entergy asked the court to make a decision by August 26.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office announced that it will conduct three informational workshops regarding manufactured homes across Delaware in August and September. Biden’s office says the meetings will cover issues including Delware’s law on manufactured homes, owner rights and responsibilities, septic systems, drinking water, procedures for filing complaints, and public safety. There will be one workshop in each of the three counties in the state and speakers will include staff from the Consumer Protection Unit of Biden’s office, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Office of Drinking Water, and Community Legal Aid Society.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced that the Delaware Governor signed a bill concerning “chronic” polluters into law. According to Biden, the new law allows state environmental regulators to designate polluters as “chronic violators.” Once an entity or person has been labeled a chronic violator, they are subject to stricter requirements in terms of reporting and permitting, as well as higher penalties. The new law would allow a maximum fine of $10,000 per illegal emission each day for chronic violators, rather than the usual maximum of $10,000 per day of violation.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office reached an agreement with two Reebook companies over allegations the companies failed to do proper groundwater testing at a manufacturing site. According to Sorrell’s office, pursuant to a 1996 agreement the companies were required to do quarterly groundwater testing at a hockey equipment manufacturing site near the Connecticut River. After hazardous chemicals were released at the site when Reebok-CCM Hockey Inc., then known as Maska U.S. Inc., the company was required to do groundwater testing quarterly. When Reebok purchased Maska they were obligated to continue groundwater testing, Sorrell’s office says. Under the terms of the settlement, the two companies must pay $40,000 in total to Vermont.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed three energy companies—Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, and Goodrich Petroleum—over questions of how the companies used federal rules governing how they report oil and gas reserves to investors. The subpoenas are part of an investigation by Schneiderman’s office into the accuracy of descriptions the companies gave to investors regarding prospects for natural gas wells. According to sources close to Schneiderman’s office, the subpoenas requested documents relating to discrepancies between what the companies told investors and what they reported to the federal government. Additionally, Schneiderman requested the companies submit information regarding the formulas they use to predict how long a gas well will remain productive.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that the Pocasset Mobile Home Park was found liable for alleged violations of state environmental laws. According to Coakley, Pocasset’s owners have violated environmental laws and court orders that required the park to upgrade a failing septic system. The park experienced multiple sewage overflows from the septic system. Coakley says the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued Pocasset a permit requiring the septic system upgrade. In her announcement Coakley states, “As the owner of the property, it was Mr. Austin's responsibility to comply with the law and by refusing to do so, he created a significant risk to the health and safety of the families and individuals living there. This court order requires Mr. Austin to upgrade the parks septic system and to comply with the law to protect the health and safety of the park's residents."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a settlement with the cargo terminals of Long Beach and Los Angeles ports for diesel emission reduction. Harris sued the cargo terminals two months ago, alleging that residents were exposed to high levels of diesel emissions from the terminals in violation of Proposition 65. Under the terms of the settlement, the terminals will have to reduce diesel emissions through projects valued at $1 million per terminal, pay the ports for projects that lower diesel emissions from vehicles and machinery, and implement a warning program for the public.
The owners of Horn’s Point, a Cambridge, Maryland country club, was ordered to pay $500,000 for alleged discharge of pollutants into wetlands, according to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Gansler’s office alleges BSJ Partners LLC, the country club owners, discharged raw sewage into wetlands along the Choptank River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, after their septic system failed. According to Gansler, BSJ Partners did this for two years, saving more than $424,000. In a statement Gansler said, "The extraordinary penalty we secured in this case is a severe warning to anyone who would pollute our wetlands, our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. This office will aggressively pursue and punish those who violate the law and harm the health and well-being of Maryland's precious natural resources." BSJ Partners must pay $485,000 for violating environmental laws, $15,000 for failing to submit discharge monitoring reports, and $500 for discovery violations.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation regarding distribution of water. In the suit, King asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the Bureau from releasing water originally classified for New Mexico to Texas instead. In July, the Bureau reclassified 65,000 acres of water in the Elephant Butte Reservoir, making it available to Texas when it was originally set aside for New Mexico. King alleges this unilateral action by the Bureau is illegal under the Rio Grande Compact because the water was stored for New Mexico’s benefit.
Attorneys General from nine states—Arizona, Florida, Guam, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah—have asked Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw proposed electricity regulations. The proposed regulations would require utilities to use Maximum Achievable Control Technology and EPA officials say the regulations are designed to improve air quality. The Attorneys General argue that the EPA failed to follow President Obama’s directive to analyze cumulative effects of new regulations before implementing them. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt cites a cumulative effect study conducted by an unnamed private industry group that showed the new regulation, when combined with another EPA transportation rule, would raise Kansas electricity rates more than 12% by 2016. In a letter to Jackson, Schmidt asked the EPA to withdraw the proposed regulation until the cumulative impacts were analyzed.
A Sioux County judge has ordered Haverhals Farm, a cattle company, to pay a $15,000 civil penalty for alleged manure discharge into an Iowa tributary. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources alleged Haverhals discharged approximately 950,000 gallons of cattle manure into a tributary. In response to Miller’s petition filed with the court, Haverhals admitted to discharging and land-applying cattle manure, which resulted in surface or groundwater pollution, in a consent decree. In Iowa, feedlot operations exceeding 1,000 livestock may not discharge manure into waterways without a permit. The judge also ordered Haverhals to comply with Iowa groundwater protection laws.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a $1 million settlement with two former owners and two current owners of a Superfund site in the state. The Blackburn & Union Privileges Superfund Site contains water and land contaminated with such hazardous substances as arsenic, asbestos, and lead. The former and current owners involved in the settlement must pay $1,094,169.56 to the state and federal natural resources trustees, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Department of the Interior. The trustees will use the settlement for restoration projects to repair damages to wetlands, groundwater, and other ecological resources. Praising the settlement Coakley said, “The citizens of Walpole have had to live with the environmental impact of this contamination for many years. We are pleased that today's agreement will not only require the responsible parties to reimburse taxpayer dollars, but will also provide funding to begin restoring or replacing the wetland and other natural resources."
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch requested a pre-motion conference ahead of the government’s planned motion to dismiss New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against the Army Corp of Engineers for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Schneiderman filed suit against the Army Corp on May 31, alleging it failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it refused to study the effects of hydrofracking on the Delaware River basin. Lynch argues Schneiderman’s claim is barred by a number of legal principles, including sovereign immunity, lack of standing, and that the claim is not ripe for review. Schneiderman’s suit argues that because the federal government is part of the Delaware River Basin Commission it must comply with NEPA and study the effects on the basin. The Army Corps contends that the Commission is not a federal agency.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced that Washington and South Carolina have filed a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The lawsuit seeks to compel the NRC to resume consideration of a stalled nuclear waste dump project, Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. Washington and South Carolina argue that the NRC has unreasonably delayed the consideration of the Yucca Mountain license application after the Obama administration sought to withdraw the application. Explaining the decision to file McKenna says, “We filed today's action because the current situation is unacceptable. There's always a risk that, in the future, in searching for a solution, that it would be just fine to leave large amounts of waste at Hanford. That would be incredibly unfair, considering this state has carried a disproportionate share of the burden." This most recent lawsuit comes after a federal court threw out another lawsuit by Washington and South Carolina earlier this year, determining that the action was not appropriate because the NRC had not made a final decision on Yucca Mountain.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that his office sent out letters to 14 landlords regarding noncompliance with state lead laws. Vermont requires landlords of buildings existing before 1978 to repair peeling paint and clean common areas, among other annual maintenance endeavors. The letters are part of a larger statewide effort by the Vermont Attorney General’s office to reduce lead exposure in rental properties. The notified landlords have three months to bring the property into compliance.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a $7,000 settlement with fluorescent light bulb distributor Lumiram Electric Corporation. The settlement stems from allegations Lumiram used misleading environmental advertisement and violated the Mercury Management Act. In addition to the monetary settlement, Lumiram agreed to correct its advertising and comply with Massachusetts mercury waste management laws. In her announcement Coakley says, "While using compact fluorescent light bulbs can help conserve energy, it is important that they are recycled properly to protect our environment. Companies doing business in the state must comply with our environmental protection laws."
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced a $10,000 settlement with Vandor LLC, a Utah-based company that imported decorative drinking glasses. The complaints alleged that the imported glasses contained high levels of lead. The settlement also prevents Vandor from selling children’s products in the state unless they meet specific requirements regarding lead and cadmium content. Additionally, Vandor must report its test results and allow Vermont consumers to return the glasses at issue for a refund.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced an information campaign designed to help protect Maryland landowners from “high-pressure sales tactics” by speculators looking for natural gas deposits. Western Maryland sits on a natural gas rich area known as the Marcellus Shale, making it attractive to companies drilling for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Gansler states, "Fracking poses significant risks to the land and the groundwater beneath it. Every landowner needs to be armed with accurate knowledge of these risks in order to safeguard his or her legal rights when being asked to lease mineral rights." Gansler’s office has produced two documents intended to help landowners that are now available on the Maryland Attorney General’s webpage.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont denied a motion for preliminary injunction in the Entergy suit against the state of Vermont. Entergy, owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, is suing Vermont Governor Shumlin, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, and members of a state regulatory agency for a judgment ruling that state attempts to regulate the plant are preempted by federal law. The court determined Entergy would not suffer any irreparable harm that a preliminary injunction could address. Sorrell, representing Vermont, states, "We will continue to defend the constitutionality of Vermont's laws regulating Vermont Yankee and will be working hard to prepare for the critical merits stage of this litigation." The trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.
The Connecticut Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection settled with Covanta Projects of Wallingford over alleged violations at a power plant. The suit alleged that Covanta’s dioxin levels at one unit of the power plant exceeded the maximum state allowance. Covanta agreed to pay $400,000 in penalties to the state, $200,000 of which will go to support environmental protection projects. Covanta may reopen the closed unit after meeting conditions mandated in the settlement agreement.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced that Sioux Pharm, a pharmaceutical company, has been assessed a $20,000 civil penalty by a district court judge for wastewater violations. Miller sued Sioux Pharm in 2009, alleging a number of wastewater violations, including illegal discharge of wastewater into groundwater. Sioux Pharm is further ordered to permanently close their wastewater storage facility and level it.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that no charges will be brought against Entergy Corp. officials for lying to regulators regarding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The investigation examined statements by executives that there were no underground pipes at the Vermont Yankee site that could be leaking radioactive material. Entergy officials later admitted that there were in fact underground pipes at the facility that were leaking radioactive substances. The officials stated that they had mislead regulators but not intentionally. Sorrell determined that while it was clear the executives had “repeatedly failed to meet a minimally acceptable standard of credibility and trustworthiness,” there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against Scott Porter for allegedly burning trade, construction, demolition, and salvage wastes without a permit. Attorney General Koster has sought a permanent injunction that would require Porter to comply with the Missouri Air Conservation Law, and to pay civil penalties. This lawsuit is one of many Attorney General Koster has filed against Missouri residents for violations of Missouri’s conservation laws this year.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a brief supporting Vermont’s position on whether the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should close. The plant’s owner, Entergy Corporation, sued the state after state officials indicated it was unlikely Vermont would renew the plant’s federal license, despite the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the renewal. State officials in both Vermont and Massachusetts are concerned about the potential for harm in the event of a disaster, and are also interested in ensuring that states are able to regulate their power generating facilities. The state plans to close the Vernon plant on March 21, 2012, if Entergy is unable to secure a judgment preventing the shutdown.
New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, stated Monday that he will sue the Federal Government if it fails to commit to an environmental review of natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin within 30 days. The review would include an examination of hydraulic fracturing which Schneiderman says poses risks to the environment, health, and communities.