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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Southwest Marine, Inc.

Citation: 29 ELR 20273
No. 96 CV 1492-B (AJB), 28 F. Supp. 2d 584/47 ERC 1711/(S.D. Cal., 11/20/1998)

The court holds that citizens have standing to seek civil monetary penalties against a private shipyard for past and present Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) violations. The court denies the shipyard's motion in limine seeking preclusion of civil penalties. Two recent cases, Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 118 S. Ct. 1003, 28 ELR 20434 (1998) and Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Environmental Services (TOC), Inc., 149 F.3d 303, 28 ELR 21444 (4th Cir. 1998), suggest that plaintiffs in citizen suits do not have standing to seek civil penalties against alleged violators of environmental statutes. Both cases, however, involved suits for wholly past violations of an environmental statute. In contrast, the instant matter involves allegations of both past and present violations of the FWPCA. No case law holds that when a plaintiff seeks injunctive remedies for ongoing violations under a federal environmental statute, the plaintiff lacks standing to seek statutorily available civil penalties. Moreover, to construe Steel Co. and Laidlaw to hold that a plaintiff is barred from ever seeking civil penalties would represent a clear deviation from established case law and a major judicial intrusion on remedies clearly provided for by Congress.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 27 ELR 20564.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles S. Crandall
Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach
1800 One American Plaza
600 W. Broadway, San Diego CA 92101
(619) 231-1058

Counsel for Defendant
Steven P. McDonald
Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps
600 W. Broadway, Ste. 2600, San Diego CA 92101
(619) 236-1414