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Reversal: Neighbors may intervene in environmental cleanup case

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Businesses neighboring an Indianapolis industrial property that was forced to clean up hazardous chemicals were improperly shut out of litigation involving the city and state, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

In Moran Electric Service, Inc., and Threaded Rod Company, Inc. v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, City of Indianapolis, Ertel Manufacturing Corp., 49A02-1305-MI-432, the panel ruled Moran and Threaded Rod have an immediate and direct interest in the proceedings and that Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele erred in determining the court didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction. The panel remanded the matter for further proceedings.

The lawsuit involves environmental cleanup ordered for the Ertel property and litigation dating to 2008, when Indianapolis sued Ertel to recoup the environmental cleanup costs. The former industrial property in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood was contaminated with lead, petroleum, asbestos, PCBs and other toxins.

As the cleanup proceeded along administrative and court tracks, Ertel, the city and state settled, and the court approved. Insurance ultimately provided $1 million. Of that, $140,000 reimbursed Indiana Department of Environmental Management for its cleanup fees, and $860,000 was placed in escrow for contingencies. IDEM in 2012 released $846,000 to the city for future cleanup costs.

Moran and Threaded Rod claimed IDEM’s settlement with Ertel required the agency to address contaminants that flowed from the Ertel site onto their properties, but the court denied their motions to intervene.

“The heart of the issue is whether the trial court properly ordered the remaining $846,000 in funds distributed to the City, which is dependent upon whether IDEM properly issued a (No Further Action) Letter regarding the Ertel property,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel.

“The current parties of the two civil actions are IDEM, the City, Ertel, and various insurance companies. Ertel, having been released from liability, has no incentive to represent Appellants’ interests. IDEM’s and the City’s interests in issuing the NFA Letter and distributing the remaining escrowed funds to the City, also appear to conflict with Appellants’ interests in using the remaining escrowed funds to remediate Appellants’ properties,” Barnes wrote.

“Consequently, we conclude that the representation of Appellants' interests by the existing parties is inadequate. In sum, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Appellants’ motions to intervene.”


 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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