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People ex rel. Scott v. U.S. Steel Corp.

Citation: 6 ELR 20765
No. No. 61895, 352 N.E.2d 225/40 Ill. App. 3d 607, (Ill. App. Ct., 07/23/1976)

The court affirms a lower court's order denying a stay of proceedings in a suit brought by the Illinois Attorney General which seeks to enjoin defendant's Gary, Indiana Works from discharging pollutants into Lake Michigan. The doctrines of primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies are inapplicable, despite the pendency of an adjudicatory hearing before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning the discharge permit issued for the Gary Works under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NDPES) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (FWPCA). The FWPCA preserved the right of states and municipalities to set discharge standards more stringent than the federal requirements and to enforce such standards by common law nuisance actions. Noting that the Attorney General is specifically authorized by the Illinois Environmental Protection Act to bring suit in state court to prevent pollution, the court rules that to stay such proceedings pending a final federal administrative determination where, as here, the gist of the suit is a threat of harm to public health, would be to render the Attorney General's authority a nullity and countenance this public health harm. There is no irrevocable conflict between the federal statutory scheme and the Attorney General's state and common law remedies, since in meeting the more stringent state requirements, defendant would also satisfy the applicable federal discharge standards. In the absence of such a conflict, a stay of trial proceedings would be improper, and plaintiff need not resort in the first instance to the federal administrative agency.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Joseph V. Karaganis, Special Asst. Attorney General
Karaganis & Gail
180 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago IL 60602
(312) 782-1905

Counsel for Defendant-Appellant
Jay A. Lipe
James T. Harrington
William M. Stevens
Rooks, Pitts, Fullagar & Poust
208 S. LaSalle St.
Chicago IL 60604
(312) 372-5600

DRUCKER, J.; LORENZ, P.J., and SULLIVAN, J., concur.