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Consolidated Cos. v. Union Pac. R.R. Co.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20222
Nos. No. 06-30570, (5th Cir., 08/28/2007)

The Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court's interlocutory judgment in favor of a property owner that brought suit against a railroad company for soil contamination. The owner, believing that the contamination occurred during the railroad company's former operations on the property, filed suit under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (LEQA). The lower court held a bench trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) on the limited issue of whether the contiguous parcels of property that make up the former railroad site can constitute a single "facility" for purposes of the owner's RCRA and LEQA claims. In its interlocutory judgment, the court ruled that the entire site can constitute a single facility for purposes of the owner's claims. On appeal, the company argued that the owner lacks standing under RCRA and the LEQA. However, the owner's injuries, both actual and threatened, are sufficiently related to the former railroad site so as to give it standing to bring claims implicating the site in its entirety. The company also argued that the lower court erred in holding that the entire former railroad site can constitute a single facility. But the legislative intent behind RCRA clearly shows that the correct interpretation of the term "facility" is one that encompasses the entire former railroad site, and nothing in RCRA prevents a plaintiff from bringing a suit implicating a facility in which he lacks a complete or even a partial ownership interest. Likewise, nothing in the LEQA suggests that a "facility" must be limited to the property lines of the owner's tract of land.