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Delaware Valley Toxics Coalition v. Kurz-Hastings, Inc.

ELR Citation: 23 ELR 20915
Nos. No. 92-5961, 813 F. Supp. 1132/36 ERC 1682/(E.D. Pa., 02/17/1993)

The court holds that the citizen suit provision of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) is constitutional and is not an unlawful delegation of executive power, because the Act's citizen suit provision does not impermissibly grant executive power to the judiciary, through private citizen suits. The court also holds that the groups have standing to bring actions under EPCRA §326. Citizens groups brought an action against an operator of a manufacturing plant for failing to file Form R reports as required by EPCRA §313(a), and the operator moved to dismiss. The court holds that the groups' citizen suit does not stem from an unlawful delegation of executive power, because private litigants are not controlled by Congress and the executive branch retains authority to commence action against alleged violators. Congress assigned to courts the job of fine determination when the Environmental Protection Agency fails to pursue EPCRA violators, and the fact that EPCRA makes fines assessed under EPCRA payable to the U.S. Treasury does not affect the constitutionality of citizen suits. The court next holds that the citizen groups have standing to sue because the defendant's failure to file reports under EPCRA is the action that caused the plaintiff's injury. The purpose behind EPCRA is defeated when persons subject to the Act fail to file information regarding releases of toxic chemicals to the environment. The court holds that EPCRA §313 provides the federal courts with jurisdiction for wholly past violations, and citizen suits may be brought for past failures to comply with EPCRA, even if the defendant is in compliance with the Act at the time the complaint is filed. Citizen plaintiffs may still be able to obtain declaratory judgments, fines to deter future violations by a defendant, attorneys fees and costs, and injunctive relief where it can be proven that a defendant is sufficiently likely to commit future violations.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jerome Balter
Public Interest Law Ctr., 125S. 9th St., Ste. 700, Philadelphia PA 19107
(215) 627-7100

Counsel for Defendant
Louis W. Fryman
Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel
2000 Market St., 10th Fl., Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 299-2000