Attorney Gen. v. Tenn. Valley Auth., No. 09-1623.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtWILKINSON, Circuit Judge:
Citation615 F.3d 291
PartiesState of NORTH CAROLINA, ex rel. Roy COOPER, Attorney General, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellant, v. State of Alabama, Intervenor, Commonwealth of Kentucky; State of Louisiana; State of North Dakota; State of South Dakota; State of Utah; State of Wyoming; Gerard V. Bradley; Ronald A. Cass; James L. Huffman; F. Scott Kieff; John J. Park, Jr.; Jim Cooper, Representative; Phil Roe, Representative; Steve Cohen, Representative; Marsha Blackburn, Representative; Lincoln Davis, Representative; Zach Wamp, Representative; Bart Gordon, Representative; John Tanner, Representative; Parker Griffith, Representative; Travis Childers, Representative; Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America; National Association of Manufacturers; American Petroleum Institute; Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition; Utility Air Regulatory Group; American Forest and Paper Association; State of Tennessee, Amici Supporting Appellant, Environmental Law Professors; American Lung Association; American Thoracic Society; National Parks Conservation Association; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; State of California; State of Connecticut; State of Delaware; State of Illinois; State of Iowa; State of Maine; State of Maryland; State of Massachusetts; State of Mississippi; State of New Hampshire; State Of New Jersey; State of New Mexico; State of New York; State of Oklahoma; State of Rhode Island; State of Vermont, Amici Supporting Appellee.
Decision Date26 July 2010
Docket NumberNo. 09-1623.

615 F.3d 291

State of NORTH CAROLINA, ex rel. Roy COOPER, Attorney General, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellant,
v.
State of Alabama, Intervenor,
Commonwealth of Kentucky; State of Louisiana; State of North Dakota; State of South Dakota; State of Utah; State of Wyoming; Gerard V. Bradley; Ronald A. Cass; James L. Huffman; F. Scott Kieff; John J. Park, Jr.; Jim Cooper, Representative; Phil Roe, Representative; Steve Cohen, Representative; Marsha Blackburn, Representative; Lincoln Davis, Representative; Zach Wamp, Representative; Bart Gordon, Representative; John Tanner, Representative; Parker Griffith, Representative; Travis Childers, Representative; Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America; National Association of Manufacturers; American Petroleum Institute; Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition; Utility Air Regulatory Group; American Forest and Paper Association; State of Tennessee, Amici Supporting Appellant,
Environmental Law Professors; American Lung Association; American Thoracic Society; National Parks Conservation Association; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; State of California; State of Connecticut; State of Delaware; State of Illinois; State of Iowa; State of Maine; State of Maryland; State of Massachusetts; State of Mississippi; State of New Hampshire; State Of New Jersey; State of New Mexico; State of New York; State of Oklahoma; State of Rhode Island; State of Vermont, Amici Supporting Appellee.

No. 09-1623.

United States Court of Appeals,Fourth Circuit.

Argued: May 14, 2010.
Decided: July 26, 2010.


615 F.3d 292

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED.

615 F.3d 293

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED.

615 F.3d 294

ARGUED: Harriet A. Cooper, Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Kevin Christopher Newsom, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP, Birmingham, Alabama, for Intervenor. Christopher Grafflin Browning, Jr., North Carolina Department of Justice, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: F. William Brownell, Makram B. Jaber, David J. DePippo, Hunton & Williams LLP, Washington, D.C.; Maureen H. Dunn, General Counsel, Frank H. Lancaster, Senior Attorney, Maria V. Gillen, Office of the General Counsel, Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Michael D. Goodstein, Stacey H. Myers, Anne E. Lynch, Hunsucker Goodstein & Nelson P.C., Washington, D.C.; Richard E. Ayres, Ayres Law Group, Washington, D.C.; James C. Gulick, Senior Deputy Attorney General, Marc Bernstein, Special Deputy Attorney General, North Carolina Department of Justice, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. Troy King, Attorney General, Corey Maze, Solicitor General, William G. Parker, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, State of Alabama, Office of the Attorney General, Montgomery, Alabama; Brian M. Vines, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP, Birmingham, Alabama, for Intervenor. Jack Conway, Attorney General, Tad Thomas, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Commonwealth of Kentucky, Office of the Attorney General, Frankfort, Kentucky, for the Commonwealth of Kentucky; James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, Attorney General, State of Louisiana, Office of the Attorney General, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the State of Louisiana; Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General, State of North Dakota, Office of the Attorney General, Bismarck, North Dakota, for the State of North Dakota; Lawrence E. Long, Attorney General, Roxanne Giedd, Assistant Attorney General, State of South Dakota, Office of the Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, for the State of South Dakota; Mark L. Shurtleff, Attorney General, State of Utah, Office of the Attorney General, Salt Lake City, Utah, for the State of Utah; Bruce A. Salzburg, State of Wyoming, Office of the Attorney General, Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the State of Wyoming, Amici Supporting Appellant. David B. Rivkin, Jr., Lee A. Casey, Mark W. DeLaquil, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Washington, D.C., for

615 F.3d 295

Gerard V. Bradley, Ronald A. Cass, James L. Huffman, F. Scott Kieff, and John J. Park, Jr., Amici Supporting Appellant. Erik S. Jaffe, Erik S. Jaffe, P.C., Washington, D.C.; C. Boyden Gray, Washington, D.C., for Jim Cooper, Phil Roe, Steve Cohen, Marsha Blackburn, Lincoln Davis, Zach Wamp, Bart Gordon, John Tanner, Parker Griffith, and Travis Childers, Amici Supporting Appellant. Charles H. Knauss, Michael B. Wigmore, Robert V. Zener, Sandra P. Franco, Bingham McCutchen LLP, Washington, D.C., for Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition, Utility Air Regulatory Group, and American Forest and Paper Association; William L. Wehrum, Hunton & Williams, Washington, D.C., for the Utility Air Regulatory Group; Quentin Riegel, National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C.; George S. Kopp, Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition, Washington, D.C.; Robin S. Conrad, Amar D. Sarwal, National Chamber Litigation Center, Inc., for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States; Harry M. Ng, Stacy R. Linden, Office of the General Counsel, American Petroleum Institute, Washington, D.C., Jan Poling, Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, D.C., for Amici Supporting Appellant. Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Barry Turner, Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Tennessee Attorney General and Reporter, Nashville, Tennessee, for the State of Tennessee, Amicus Supporting Appellant and Intervenor. Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, South Royalton, Vermont, for Environmental Law Professors, Amicus Supporting Appellee. Jamie Gibbs Pleune, Staff Attorney, Hope M. Babcock, Senior Attorney/Director, Georgetown University Law Center, Institute for Public Representation, Washington, D.C., for American Lung Association and American Thoracic Society, Amici Supporting Appellee. John T. Suttles, Jr., Southern Environmental Law Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, Amici Supporting Appellee; Mitchell S. Bernard, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, New York, for Natural Resources Defense Council, Amicus Supporting Appellee; Jamie Gibbs Pleune, Hope M. Babcock, Georgetown University Law Center, Institute for Public Representation, Washington, D.C., for National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, Amici Supporting Appellee. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General, Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Katherine Kennedy, Special Deputy Attorney General, Robert Rosenthal, Assistant Attorney General, Monica Wagner, Assistant Solicitor General, State of New York, Office of the Attorney General, New York, New York; Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General, Steven M. Sullivan, Solicitor General, William F. Brockman, Deputy Solicitor General, State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, Maryland, for States of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Vermont, Amici Supporting Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, NIEMEYER and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.

615 F.3d 296

Reversed and remanded by published opinion. Judge WILKINSON wrote the opinion, in which Judge NIEMEYER and Judge SHEDD joined.

OPINION
WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) appeals an injunction requiring immediate installation of emissions controls at four TVA electricity generating plants in Alabama and Tennessee. The injunction was based on the district court's determination that the TVA plants' emissions constitute a public nuisance in North Carolina. As a result, the court imposed specific emissions caps and emissions control technologies that must be completed by 2013.

This ruling was flawed for several reasons. If allowed to stand, the injunction would encourage courts to use vague public nuisance standards to scuttle the nation's carefully created system for accommodating the need for energy production and the need for clean air. The result would be a balkanization of clean air regulations and a confused patchwork of standards, to the detriment of industry and the environment alike. Moreover, the injunction improperly applied home state law extraterritorially, in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court's decision in International Paper Co. v. Ouellette, 479 U.S. 481, 107 S.Ct. 805, 93 L.Ed.2d 883 (1987). Finally, even if it could be assumed that the North Carolina district court did apply Alabama and Tennessee law, it is difficult to understand how an activity expressly permitted and extensively regulated by both federal and state government could somehow constitute a public nuisance. For these reasons, the judgment must be reversed.

I.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federal executive branch agency, established in 1933 and tasked with promoting economic development in the Tennessee Valley region. 48 Stat. 58 (May 18, 1933). One of TVA's “primary objectives” is to “produce, distribute, and sell electric power.” 16 U.S.C. §§ 831d( l ), 831i, & 831n-4(f). As a result of this mandate, TVA provides electricity to citizens in parts of seven states. Much of this power is generated by eleven TVA owned and operated coal-fired power plants located in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.

As a natural byproduct of the power generation process, coal-fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide (SO 2) and nitrous oxides (NO x). In the atmosphere, both compounds can transform into microscopic particles known as “fine particulate matter” or “PM 2.5” (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) that cause health problems if inhaled. When exposed to sunlight, NO x also assists in the creation of ozone, which is known to cause respiratory ailments.

SO 2, NO x, PM 2.5,...

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52 practice notes
  • United States v. EME Homer City Generation LP, 2:11-cv-19
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 12, 2011
    ...would turn "on the preemptive effect of the federal Act." Id. at 2540. In North Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 615 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2010), the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected a very similar state law public nuisance claim against power plants......
  • In re Horizon, No. 12–30012.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 24, 2014
    ...by applying it to an interstate pollution dispute arising under the Clean Air Act. North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 306–07 (4th Cir.2010). That court concluded, “[t]here is no question that the law of the states where emissions sources are located ... appli......
  • North Dakota v. Heydinger, No. 14–2156
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 15, 2016
    ...over a single discharge would lead to chaotic confrontation between sovereign states.’ ” N.C., ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth. , 615 F.3d 291, 301 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Int'l Paper Co. v. Ouellette , 479 U.S. 481, 496–97, 107 S.Ct. 805, 93 L.Ed.2d 883 (1987) ).The offset requirement......
  • Michigan v. United States Army Corps of Eng'rs, No. 10–3891.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 24, 2011
    ...a defendant in a public nuisance lawsuit. See American Electric Power, 131 S.Ct. 2527; North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. TVA, 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir.2010); North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. TVA, 515 F.3d 344 (4th Cir.2008). In fact, out of all public nuisance decisions we have identified from ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • United States v. EME Homer City Generation LP, 2:11-cv-19
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 12, 2011
    ...would turn "on the preemptive effect of the federal Act." Id. at 2540. In North Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 615 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2010), the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected a very similar state law public nuisance claim against power plants......
  • In re Horizon, No. 12–30012.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 24, 2014
    ...by applying it to an interstate pollution dispute arising under the Clean Air Act. North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 306–07 (4th Cir.2010). That court concluded, “[t]here is no question that the law of the states where emissions sources are located ... appli......
  • North Dakota v. Heydinger, No. 14–2156
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 15, 2016
    ...over a single discharge would lead to chaotic confrontation between sovereign states.’ ” N.C., ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth. , 615 F.3d 291, 301 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Int'l Paper Co. v. Ouellette , 479 U.S. 481, 496–97, 107 S.Ct. 805, 93 L.Ed.2d 883 (1987) ).The offset requirement......
  • Michigan v. United States Army Corps of Eng'rs, No. 10–3891.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 24, 2011
    ...a defendant in a public nuisance lawsuit. See American Electric Power, 131 S.Ct. 2527; North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. TVA, 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir.2010); North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. TVA, 515 F.3d 344 (4th Cir.2008). In fact, out of all public nuisance decisions we have identified from ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • Black Carbon
    • United States
    • Legal pathways to deep decarbonization in the United States Part VIII - Non-Carbon Dioxide Climate Pollutants
    • March 24, 2019
    ...v. Louisville Gas & Elec. Co., 33 F. Supp. 3d 791 (W.D. Ky. 2014). But see North Carolina ex rel . Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2010) (inding common-law claims preempted by the CAA, where North Carolina sought to use public nuisance law to reduce emissions t......
  • State and Regional Control of Geological Carbon Sequestration (Part I)
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 41-4, April 2011
    • April 1, 2011
    ...TVA— A New Era in Public Nui- sance Law ?, 24 Toxics L. Rep. (BNA) 352 (Mar. 12, 2009). 310. North Carolina v. Tenn. Valley Auth. (TVA), 615 F.3d 291, 40 ELR 20194 (4th Cir. 2010). 311. Id. at 296. 312. See Stuart Parker, Ruling Could Hinder Activists’ Push for Climate, Emissions Nuisance S......
  • Addressing the Problem: The Judicial Branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice. 4th edition
    • February 20, 2018
    ...matter of law because the alleged nuisance is authorized by law and comprehensively regulated. See North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. TVA , 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir. 2010). But see Int’l Paper Co. v. Ouellette , 479 U.S. 481, 497-99 (1987) (savings clause in comprehensive environmental litigatio......
  • Air Pollution as Public Nuisance: Comparing Modern-Day Greenhouse Gas Abatement with Nineteenth-Century Smoke Abatement.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...City of Milwaukee v. Illinois, 451 U.S. 304, 317 (1981)). (58.) See, e.g., North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir. 2010)(holding that the CAA preempts state tort law); Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, 734 F.3d 188 (3d Cir. 2013)(holding that the CAA d......
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