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Save Ourselves v. Louisiana Envtl. Control Comm'n

Citation: 14 ELR 20790
No. No. 83-C-1480, 452 So. 2d 1152/20 ERC 2214/(La., 05/14/1984)

The court holds that under the state constitution and environmental statutes, the Environmental Control Commission (ECC) acts as a public trustee of the environment, and that the administrative record and findings for the issuance of a hazardous waste disposal permit to IT Corporation fail to show that the ECC carried out its trust. The court notes that the Louisiana constitution incorporates the public trust doctrine, mandates protection of the state's natural resources insofar as possible and consistent with the health, safety, and welfare of the people, and directs the legislature to enact laws to implement that policy. The court goes on to review the Louisiana Environmental Affairs Act, including Louisiana's Hazardous Waste Control Law and the regulations promulgated to implement it, and to relate them to the constitutional provision. The constitution imposes on agencies a rule of reasonableness that requires them to balance environmental concerns with economic, social, and other factors. The ECC, set up by the statute, is not to act as a passive umpire in environmental disputes, but is to see that the rights of the public to protection of natural resources receive active and affirmative protection. In taking action, the ECC must use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach, examining alternative and possible mitigation of environmental impacts.The court next turns to the standard of review, and concludes that a decision by the ECC will not be overturned on its merits unless the balance of costs and benefits struck was arbitrary or clearly gave insufficient weight to environmental concerns, and that a court must reverse on procedural grounds a decision reached without good faith individual consideration and balancing of environmental factors. For purposes of judicial review, the agency is required to make basic findings supported by evidence and ultimate findings that flow rationally from the basic findings, and is further required to articulate a rational connection between these and the order issued. The ECC did not meet these requirements. The court cannot tell from the administrative record whether the ECC understood its duties or properly exercised them. There is no indication that the ECC had evidence before it to show that the issuance of the permit would meet the constitutional and statutory standards of environmental protection. Further, the agency gave no reason for rejecting intervenor's evidence that the site is not hydrologically isolated, nor for failing to include a recommended mitigation measure as a condition to the permit. Although the court declines to hold on the evidence before it that the ECC's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, it also refuses to ratify the decision. The ECC must provide analysis and reasons for its decision so that judicial review can be effected. Accordingly, the court remands for further proceedings.

Counsel for Appellants
Stephen M. Irving
355 Napoleon St., Baton Rouge LA 70802
(504) 346-8774

Counsel for Respondents
William J. Guste Jr., Attorney General; Ian Douglas Lindsey
Department of Justice, 7434 Perkins Rd., Suite C, Baton Rouge LA 70808
(504) 389-0443

R. Gordon Kean Jr., Charles S. McCowan Jr.
Sanders, Downing, Kean & Cazedessus
P.O. Box 1588, Baton Rouge LA 70821
(504) 387-0999