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Texans United for a Safe Economy Educ. Fund v. Crown Cent. Petroleum Corp.

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20506
Nos. No. 98-21043, 207 F.3d 789/(5th Cir., 04/06/2000) Rev'd

The court holds that environmental groups have standing to bring a Clean Air Act (CAA) action against a Texas oil refinery for violating hydrogen and sulfur dioxide emission standards and further holds that a state environmental agency's administrative action against the refinery for the same violations does not statutorily preclude the groups' claims. The court first holds that the groups have standing to bring a CAA claim against the refinery. The breathing and smelling of polluted air is sufficient to demonstrate injury-in-fact. Additionally, evidence offered by the groups sufficiently demonstrates that their injuries are fairly traceable to the refinery's emissions. Further, the groups' requested remedy of an injunction against the refinery may be appropriate even if it will not prevent all discharges of pollutants affecting the group. Moreover, the civil penalties requested by the group will redress their injuries by deterring the refinery from violating the law.

The court next holds that the groups' claims against the refinery are not statutorily precluded by a state environmental agency's administrative action. CAA §304 precludes a citizen suit where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or a state has commenced and is diligently prosecuting a civil action in a court of the United States or a state. The plain meaning of "court of the United States or state" excludes administrative actions, such as the one against the refinery.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 28 ELR 21563.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
James M. Hecker
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Ste. 800, Washington DC 20036
(202) 797-8600

Counsel for Defendant
Louis S. Zimmerman
Fulbright & Jaworksi
600 Congress Ave., Ste. 2400, Austin TX 78701
(512) 474-5201

Before Politz and Garwood, JJ.