ILNews

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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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