Court: EPA approval required for expansion

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A Porter County sewer company must receive prior approval from the Environmental Protection Agency per a federal consent decree in order to be able to expand its services, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

The appeal from the Indiana Regulatory Commission, Application of South Haven Sewer Works, Inc., City of Portage v. South Haven Sewer Works, Inc., No. 93A02-0703-EX-204, came before the court because the City of Portage believed the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission's grant of a certificate of territorial authority to South Haven was an error as a matter of law.

South Haven owns and operates a wastewater collection and treatment system in Porter County. It wanted to expand into a territory that ran west from Bay Road, which is the boundary of its existing CTA, a mile-and-a-half to Willowcreek Road, and in the north from County Road 700 North, south to State Road 130. The company filed a verified petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, in which the commission issued a final order concluding South Haven met all statutory and regulatory requirements.

The city appealed, arguing an agreement between South Haven and the EPA required South Haven to have EPA approval before expanding its sewer territory. South Haven and EPA entered into a consent decree to settle a lawsuit filed by the EPA, in which the agency sought injunctive relief and civil penalties as a result of the company's violations of various environmental regulations.

Section V(8)(a) of the decree stated, "... South Haven shall not expand its sewer connections or service area unless, for each proposed expansion, it demonstrates to the EPA that ...." It also defined service area as "all areas in which South Haven is authorized to collect and convey sewage."

Portage argues these sections are unambiguous and mandates South Haven has EPA approval prior to expanding its service territory.

The commission found the provisions in the consent decree to be ambiguous and granted South Haven the power to expand. However, the Court of Appeals found the consent decree's language to be unambiguous, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

"By defining service area as the area South Haven was providing sewer service to at the time of executing the consent decree, any future 'proposed expansion' of the service area requires EPA's approval pursuant to Section V(8)(a)," she wrote. "Accordingly, as South Haven proposed to expand its original CTA by filing a petition with the Commission, it should have requested EPA's prior approval."

South Haven and the commission argued requiring prior EPA approval for South Haven expansion means the EPA will have power over state matters. However, South Haven voluntarily entered into the consent decree with the EPA. Even after receiving EPA approval, it is still up to the commission to determine whether to grant South Haven's request for expansion, wrote Judge Riley. Therefore, the commission erred as a matter of law when it determined South Haven had lawful authority to expand its geographic service territory.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

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  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

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