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Minnesota Pub. Interest Research Group v. White Bear Rod & Gun Club

Citation: 8 ELR 20002
No. No. 46951, 257 N.W.2d 762/(Minn., 07/22/1977)

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirms a lower court's judgment permanently enjoining the operation of a trap and skeet shooting facility in a rural area near Minneapolis because of adverse environmental effects. The Minnesota Environmental Rights Act gives any person or organization the right to bring a civil action for declaratory or injunctive relief against conduct which materially adversely affects the environment. The trial court's conclusion, that the evidence presented by plaintiff, which consisted of testimony by experts and residents of the area, established that excessive noise and expended lead shot in wetlands from operation of the facility would impair or destroy natural resources protected by the statute, was not clearly erroneous. The trial court properly found that defendants failed to rebut this prima facies showing that operation of the facility violated the statute with contrary evidence or to demonstrate that there was no feasible alternative or that its conduct was consistent with and reasonably required for the promotion of the public health, safety, or welfare. The Act provides that when considering the appropriateness of injunctive relief, the trial court is to apply a balancing test weighing the gravity of the environmental impacts, the utility of defendant's conduct, the economic impact upon the defendant, and other equitable considerations. Economic hardship alone, however, is not an affirmative defense. The lower court also correctly rejected defendants' claim that the case be remitted to the City Council and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for further administrative action.

A dissent contends that plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie showing of noise pollution since they failed to establish an objective maximum permissible sound level for the area. It also views the injunctive remedy granted as disproportionate to the harm established by the evidence.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Respondents
Edward A. Zimmerman
6750 France Ave. S., Edina MN 55435
(612) 925-2500

Will H. Hartfeldt
Hartfeldt & Talle
Suite 434 Hamm Bldg., St. Paul MN 55102
(612) 222-0708

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
Jack C. Wallace
Newcome, Wallace & Newcome
1st National Bank Bldg., St. Paul MN 55101
(612) 227-9281

Counsel for Amicus Curiae Sierra Club
Kristen C. Nelson
Gray, Plant, Mooty & Anderson
300 Roanoke Bldg., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 339-9501

Heard before KELLY, TODD and MacLAUGHLIN, JJ., and considered and decided by the court en banc.