Thursday, November 20, 2008

Romoland School District v. Inland Empire Energy

Nov 18: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 06-56632. The Romoland School District and several individuals and environmental groups, (collectively, Plaintiffs) appeal the denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction and the dismissal with prejudice of their two claims against Inland Empire Energy Center (IEEC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric Company. Plaintiffs brought suit against IEEC under the citizen suit provision of the Clean Air Act (CAA), in connection with IEEC’s plans to construct an 810-megawatt power plant approximately 1,100 feet from the Romoland Elementary School in Riverside County, California.

IEEC’s motion to dismiss contended, among other things, that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the suit because IEEC had been granted a permit under Title V of the CAA and such permits may not be challenged in civil or criminal enforcement proceedings in federal district court. Plaintiffs also included as a defendant in their CAA action the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the local air pollution control agency that issued the relevant permit and authorized IEEC to
begin construction of the power plant.

The Ninth Circuit said, "We must resolve two threshold issues of jurisdiction before we may consider the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims: (1) whether the district court’s dismissals of the claims in this case present us with a final decision pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291; and (2) whether the Central District of California was an appropriate forum, and 42 U.S.C. § 7604 an appropriate statutory basis, for Plaintiffs’ challenge such that the district court had jurisdiction over it pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331."

The Appeals Court said, "We conclude that the orders appealed from are part of a final judgment and thus that we have jurisdiction over this case, but that the district court did not. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of the claims against IEEC with prejudice, hold that the claims against the air district should also be deemed to be dismissed with prejudice notwithstanding the voluntary dismissal order’s silence on this point, and further hold that all proceedings on Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction are void because the district court was without jurisdiction to entertain that motion."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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