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7th Circuit affirms rulings for EPA in Bloomington PCB cleanup

May 2, 2014

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday turned away a citizen-led appeal of rulings favorable to the Environmental Protection Agency in an ongoing cleanup of a former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant that polluted the Bloomington site with toxic PCBs.

The court affirmed rulings by U.S. District Chief Judge Richard Young of the Southern District of Indiana. Young granted summary judgment in favor of EPA and also rejected a motion that he disqualify himself based on prior rulings.

“The district court correctly granted summary judgment to the EPA on plaintiffs’ claims regarding the first remedial stage. Plaintiffs also are not prevailing parties on their claim that the EPA and its administrator were required to have the court enter agreements between parties as consent decrees,” Circuit Judge David Hamilton wrote in Sarah E. Frey, Kevin Enright and Protect Our Woods Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency and Gina McCarthy, Administrator, 13-2142.

“Finally, Chief Judge Young was not required to recuse himself, and his denial of the motion to disqualify did not violate plaintiffs’ right to due process of law,” Hamilton wrote.

The appeal is the latest in a long line of cases involving the former Westinghouse plant that also operated under the CBS name. It manufactured capacitors from the 1950s to 1970s that contained polychlorinated biphenyls regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and a consent decree on cleanup of multiple polluted sites in Bloomington has been in place since 1985.

Young correctly found plaintiffs’ motions were moot because the cleanup is ongoing or because plaintiffs are not prevailing parties or parties to the original consent decree, and as such they also are not entitled to attorney fees.

“Simply put, there is no reason the district judge should have recused himself from this case,” Hamilton wrote. “His decision not to do so did not deny plaintiffs due process of law. … “The judgment of the district court dismissing this action is affirmed in all respects.”

 

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