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Strategic Environmental Partners, LLC v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20249
Nos. A-5283-12T3, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., 11/13/2014)

A New Jersey appellate court held that the state environmental agency exceeded its authority when it seized control of a privately owned landfill under an emergency order intended to abate an alleged imminent threat to the environment arising from continued emissions of hydrogen sulfide. The order enjoined the landfill from accepting any material and ordered the agency to seize the property. But the agency exceeded its authority under state law by seizing control of the property without first securing judicial approval. Upon determining that the landfill violated the hydrogen sulfide standard, state law only authorized the agency to institute an action in the trial court for injunctive and other relief. Only the court has the authority to order immediate abatement, corrective action, or temporary or permanent restraints. In addition, by applying a statutory emissions standard that did not yet exist until the applicable statute was enacted the same morning the order was issued, the agency erred in basing the emergency order retroactively on the landfill's past hydrogen sulfide emissions. Moreover, the agency has yet to make the requisite showing to justify an emergency order under state law. But the court rejected landfill owner's contention that the new statute on which the agency relied in this case constitutes unconstitutional special legislation, and it declined to address the owner's other constitutionally based challenges to the agency's actions.