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United States v. Sheyenne Tooling & Manufacturing Co.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20850
Nos. A3-95-110, 952 F. Supp. 1420/(D.N.D., 12/30/1996) damages

The court assesses a $60,150 penalty against a metal finishing plant for violating the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) by failing to control its discharge of pollutants, failing to submit timely and complete reports, and failing to sample and analyze its regulated wastewater before discharging it into a publicly owned treatment works. The court first holds that the plant was not in compliance with the FWPCA for approximately 10 years, and while this failure to comply with the laws and regulations was not deliberate or malicious, it was unlawful and the plant is liable for each day of such violation. Further, despite the fact that the plant's wrong is a matter of inadequate advice and management, rather than deliberate wrongdoing, the plant must receive sufficient punishment to alert other wrongdoers to the importance of obeying the laws and regulations. The court then holds that the government's economic experts used averages and generalization that were not compatible with the small playing field in which the plant operated. Justice requires that the plant, dependent as it is on a narrow base of only a few customers, should not be overburdened lest it be forced to retrench and reduce its work force—thus injuring innocent people. The court therefore refuses to impose the $336,000 penalty that the government requested.

[A related opinion in this case is published at 27 ELR 20848.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
John T. Schneider, U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
219 U.S. CtHse.
655 First Ave. N., Fargo ND 58102
(701) 239-5671

Counsel for Defendant
John H. Moosbrugger
Moosbrugger, Ohlsen, Dvorak & Carter
219 Third St. S., Grand Forks ND 58201
(701) 775-8146