Friends of the Earth v. Chevron Chem. Co.
Citation: 28 ELR 20424
No. 96-40590, 129 F.3d 826/(5th Cir., 12/10/1997)
The court holds that an environmental organization has associational standing to sue a chemical company for violating the terms of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The court first rejects the district court's finding that the organization lacked standing because it had no legal members under the corporate laws of the District of Columbia. While a corporation's failure to comply with state and internal rules for identification of its members might be relevant to the issue of whom the corporation represents, this defect should not overshadow the considerable activities of the organization with and for those persons its officers and staff have consistently considered to be members. The court then holds that, by electing the governing body of the organization and financing its activities, the purported members satisfy the "indicia of membership" test used to determine whether a purported corporation, despite the failure to meet state-law requirements, has members whose interests it can represent in federal court. Additionally, the members voluntarily associated themselves with the organization and testified in court that they were members. The organization has a clearly articulated and understandable membership structure. And the suit is clearly within the organization's central purpose and within the scope of reasons that individuals joined the organization.
A dissenting judge would hold that the organization did not have the requisite individual members in order to qualify for associational standing.
[The district court's decisions in this litigation are published at 26 ELR 20296 and 21283.]
Counsel for Plaintiff
Bruce J. Terris, Carolyn S. Pravlik
Terris, Pravlik & Wagner
1121 12th St. NW, Washington DC 20005
Counsel for Defendant
James E. Smith
Beirne, Maynard & Parsons
First Interstate Tower
1300 Post Oak Blvd., 24th Fl., Houston TX 77056
Before Barksdale and Stewart, JJ.