N.C. ex rel. Cooper v. TVA

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Citation40 ELR 20194,615 F.3d 291
Decision Date26 July 2010

615 F.3d 291

40 ELR 20194

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, ex rel. Roy Cooper, Attorney General, Plaintiff-Appellee,

TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellant, 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 FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

May 14, 2010, Argued

July 26, 2010, Decided

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 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.

[615 F.3d 296] 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(1), 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], and ozone are among the air pollutants extensively regulated through the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq. Pursuant to the Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued numerous regulations, and...

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4 practice notes
  • Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., NO. 3:12-CV-334-CRS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • March 18, 2014
    ...conclusion and found that state common law tort claims are preempted by the CAA. See North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 298 (4th Cir. 2010); Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, 839 F. Supp. 2d 849, 865 (S.D. Miss. 2012), aff'd on other grounds, 718 F.3d 460 (5th Cir. 20......
  • Little v. Louisville Gas & Elec. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13-CV-01214-JHM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • July 16, 2014
    ...to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it." N.C., ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Pac. Gas & Elec. Co. v. St. Energy Res. Conservation & Dev. Comm'n, 461 U.S. 190, 204 (1983)). "Conflict preem......
  • Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., No. 14-6198
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 2, 2015
    ...all [Clean Air Act] requirements relevant to the particular polluting source." North Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 300 (4th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, pursuant to the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Qual......
  • Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, 2:12-cv-929
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 12, 2012
    ...ExxonMobil Corp., 09-17490, -- F.3d --, 2012 WL 4215921 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2012); N. Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir. 2010) cert. dismissed, 132 S. Ct. 46 (2011); United States v. EME Homer City Generation L.P., 823 F. Supp. 2d 274 (W.D. Pa. 2011).......
4 cases
  • Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., NO. 3:12-CV-334-CRS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • March 18, 2014
    ...conclusion and found that state common law tort claims are preempted by the CAA. See North Carolina ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 298 (4th Cir. 2010); Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, 839 F. Supp. 2d 849, 865 (S.D. Miss. 2012), aff'd on other grounds, 718 F.3d 460 (5th Cir. 20......
  • Little v. Louisville Gas & Elec. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13-CV-01214-JHM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • July 16, 2014
    ...to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it." N.C., ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Pac. Gas & Elec. Co. v. St. Energy Res. Conservation & Dev. Comm'n, 461 U.S. 190, 204 (1983)). "Conflict preem......
  • Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., No. 14-6198
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 2, 2015
    ...all [Clean Air Act] requirements relevant to the particular polluting source." North Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291, 300 (4th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, pursuant to the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Qual......
  • Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, 2:12-cv-929
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 12, 2012
    ...ExxonMobil Corp., 09-17490, -- F.3d --, 2012 WL 4215921 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2012); N. Carolina, ex rel. Cooper v. Tennessee Valley Auth., 615 F.3d 291 (4th Cir. 2010) cert. dismissed, 132 S. Ct. 46 (2011); United States v. EME Homer City Generation L.P., 823 F. Supp. 2d 274 (W.D. Pa. 2011).......

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