Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20195
Nos. 12-4216, (3d Cir., 08/20/2013)

The Third Circuit held that the CAA does not preempt state law tort claims brought by private property owners against a source of pollution located within the state. The case arose after a group of 1,500 residents who live within one mile of a coal-fired power plant filed suit against the facility under state nuisance, negligence, and trespass law. The residents sought compensatory and punitive relief for injuries they allegedly suffered due to the plant's release of odors and particulates into the surrounding neighborhood. The power station argued that because it was subject to comprehensive regulation under the CAA, it owed no extra duty to the residents under state tort law, and the lower court agreed, dismissing the case. But nothing in the CAA indicates that Congress intended to preempt source state common law tort claims. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in International Paper Co. v. Ouellette, 479 U.S. 481, 17 ELR 20327 (1987), confirms this reading of the statute. In that case, the Court held that the CWA did not bar individuals from bringing a nuisance claim pursuant to the laws of the source state. Given that there is no meaningful difference between the CWA and the CAA for the purposes of preemption analysis, the Supreme Court’s decision in Ouellette controls. The CAA, therefore, does not preempt state common law claims based on the law of the state where the source of the pollution is located, and the court reversed and remanded the case.