State v. Champion Intern. Corp.

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtHARBISON; BROCK; DROWOTA; DROWOTA
Citation16 Envtl.L.Rep. 20,24 ERC 1371,709 S.W.2d 569
Decision Date21 April 1986
Parties, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,729 STATE of Tennessee, James E. Word, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Health and Environment, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Plaintiffs/Appellees, v. CHAMPION INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, d/b/a Champion Papers, Defendant/Appellant.

Page 569

709 S.W.2d 569
24 ERC 1371, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,729
STATE of Tennessee, James E. Word, Commissioner, Tennessee
Department of Health and Environment, and the
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency,
Plaintiffs/Appellees,
v.
CHAMPION INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, d/b/a Champion Papers,
Defendant/Appellant.
Supreme Court of Tennessee,
at Nashville.
April 21, 1986.

Charles H. Warfield, Nashville, for defendant/appellant.

Frank J. Scanlon, Deputy Atty. Gen., Michael D. Pearigen, Asst. Atty. Gen. (W.J. Michael Cody, Atty. Gen. and Reporter, of counsel), for plaintiffs-appellees.

OPINION

HARBISON, Justice.

Appellant operates a paper mill at Canton, North Carolina. It discharges chemical waste therefrom into the Pigeon River at a point several miles inside the borders of the State of North Carolina. Prior to 1981 it held valid permits from the State of North Carolina issued pursuant to and in conformity with the laws of that state as authorized by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (herein "FWPCA"), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq. Appellant duly applied for renewal of its permit in 1981, and administrative proceedings with reference to that renewal were pending when the present action was brought in July 1983.

In this action the State of Tennessee and certain of its environmental officials sought an injunction and civil penalties pursuant to Tennessee statutes and common law, alleging that the effluent from appellant's plant had polluted the Pigeon River below the point of discharge and throughout the course of the river in Tennessee.

Both the Chancellor and the Court of Appeals held that this action could be maintained and overruled a motion for summary judgment filed by appellant. 1 The action was brought in a Tennessee state court at Nashville. Appellant is qualified to do business in the State of Tennessee and owns large tracts of land therein, so that it is generally subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the state.

Page 571

After careful consideration of the issues, we are of the opinion that the motion for summary judgment was well taken and should have been sustained. Accordingly we reverse and dismiss.

There is no dispute as to any material facts. The question presented is whether or not the state and its officials may, under controlling federal authorities, maintain an action in local state courts under local law against a permit holder discharging effluent into interstate waters, the point of discharge being outside the territorial boundaries of the plaintiff. In our opinion neither the federal statutes nor the state statutes relied upon by appellees authorize such an action.

In their complaint appellees invoke state court jurisdiction pursuant to T.C.A. §§ 69-3-115 and 117(c) and T.C.A. § 29-3-102. The latter has to do with the abatement of public nuisances generally. The first two sections are portions of the state "Water Quality Control Act of 1977."

The latter is a detailed statute recognizing that the waters of the state are held in public trust and that the people of the state have a right to unpolluted waters. One of the declared purposes of the statute was to abate existing pollution of state waters, to reclaim polluted waters, to prevent future pollution and to plan for future use of state waters so that the water resources of the state might be used and enjoyed to the fullest extent consistent with the maintenance of unpolluted waters.

One of the specific purposes of the Act was:

"... to enable the state to qualify for full participation in the national pollutant discharge elimination system established under Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Public Law 92-500." 2 T.C.A. § 69-3-102(c).

The statute provides a comprehensive scheme for the control of pollution of the waters of the state, the latter being defined as:

"... any and all water, public or private, on or beneath the surface of the ground, which are contained within, flow through, or border upon Tennessee or any portion thereof...."

except water confined to private property. T.C.A. § 69-3-103(28).

The statute creates an administrative agency with numerous duties pertaining to the quality and purity of waters within the state. This agency is authorized to issue permits to individuals or companies discharging effluent into state waters. T.C.A. § 69-3-108. The agency is authorized to cooperate closely with the Administrator of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and "to enter into agreements with other states and the United States relative to prevention and control of pollution in interstate waters." T.C.A. 69-3-107(7)(B).

Discharge permits issued by the Tennessee agency govern discharges from specific point sources. It has been held, however, that federal agencies operating within the state are not subject to the Tennessee discharge permit program where pollution does not result from the discharge of an effluent from a point source, but from another cause such as the existence of a Tennessee Valley Authority dam. See United States ex rel. T.V.A. v. Tennessee Water Quality Control Board, 717 F.2d 992 (6th Cir.1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 937, 104 S.Ct. 1909, 80 L.Ed.2d 458 (1984).

The portions of the Water Quality Control Act under which this suit was brought authorize penalties for violation of effluent standards or water quality standards established by the Water Quality Control Board. We find nothing in the statute purporting to give the Board authority to impose penalties or to seek an injunction against the holder of a valid discharge permit issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or by an appropriate administrative agency of another state.

It is clear from the Tennessee statute that the General Assembly intended for

Page 572

this state to participate fully in a national program for the control and abatement of pollution. T.C.A. § 69-3-105(h)(1) states:

"The board shall have and exercise the power, duty, and responsibility to adopt, modify, repeal, and promulgate all necessary rules and regulations for the purpose of establishing and administering a comprehensive permit program that will enable the division of water quality control of the department of public health to be designated by the United States environmental protection agency as authorized to issue permits under the national pollutant discharge elimination system established by Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Public Law 92-500."

It is clear that the state statutes confer broad authority upon Tennessee officials to control discharge of pollutants within the boundaries of the state, including any rivers and streams forming such boundary. Where the point of discharge lies in another jurisdiction, however, it is necessary to examine federal law and federal authorities to determine whether the state may impose its law upon the holders of valid discharge permits issued by the United States government or by another state pursuant to authority granted by federal legislation.

Prior to the adoption in 1972 of the FWPCA, the Supreme Court of the United States had indicated that state law governed the pollution of interstate or navigable waters. Ohio v. Wyandotte Chemicals Corp., 401 U.S. 493, 498 n. 3, 91 S.Ct. 1005, 1009 n. 3, 28 L.Ed.2d 256 (1971). In 1972, however, shortly before adoption of the FWPCA, the Court held otherwise and overruled its contrary indication in the Wyandotte case, supra. It expressly held that federal common law, rather than internal state law, must govern in actions to abate nuisances or control pollution in interstate waters. Illinois v. Milwaukee, 406 U.S. 91, 102 n. 3, 92 S.Ct. 1385, 1392 n. 3, 31 L.Ed.2d 712 (1972).

Shortly after the release of the opinion in that case, the federal legislation now known as the Federal Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq. was adopted by the United States Congress. Thereafter the Supreme Court of the United States held that the provisions of that statute preempted federal common law in interstate water pollution cases. Milwaukee v. Illinois, 451 U.S. 304, 101 S.Ct. 1784, 68 L.Ed.2d 114 (1981). It vacated a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit which had held to the contrary and which had authorized the imposition of more stringent standards of pollution control under federal common law than those required under the recent federal statute.

While in that opinion the Supreme Court of the United States did not expressly consider the question of whether one state could impose its laws and regulations upon the holder of a discharge permit in another state, shortly after the release of its opinion it denied a petition for certiorari filed by the State of Illinois specifically raising that question. Illinois v. Milwaukee, 451 U.S. 982, 101 S.Ct. 2313, 68 L.Ed.2d 839 (1981).

Upon remand, the Milwaukee case was consolidated in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois with two other cases, and the litigation again reached the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. That court held that the FWPCA precludes application of one state's common law or statutory law to determine liability and to afford a remedy for discharges within another state. Illinois v. Milwaukee, 731 F.2d 403 (7th Cir.1984). Thereafter the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in that case and the other cases which had been consolidated with it. Scott v. City of Hammond, --- U.S. ----, 105 S.Ct. 979, 83 L.Ed.2d 981 (1985).

We interpret the foregoing authorities to hold that federal legislation is preemptive of both federal common law and state law in the area of control of pollution in interstate waters and that environmental agencies of one state may not take official action against a permit holder

Page 573

from another state except as authorized by the federal statutes.

While there is some contrary authority, we are of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
37 practice notes
  • International Paper Company v. Ouellette, No. 85-1233
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1987
    ...aff'd, 707 F.2d 1392 (CA3), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 915, 104 S.Ct. 277, 78 L.Ed.2d 257 (1983); State v. Champion International Corp., 709 S.W.2d 569 (Tenn.1986), cert. pending, No. 86-57. Thus the Act makes it clear that affected States occupy a subordinate position to source States in the f......
  • Manasota-88, Inc. v. Thomas, MANASOTA-88
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 15, 1986
    ...687 799 F.2d 687 24 ERC 2041, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,994 MANASOTA-88, INC., Lee M. THOMAS, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Respondents, and Gardinier, Inc., Intervenor-Respondent. No. 85-3837. United States Court of Appeal......
  • Ohio Mfrs. Ass'n v. City of Akron, No. 86-3191
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • October 31, 1986
    ...824 801 F.2d 824 55 USLW 2188, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,942, 12 O.S.H. Cas.(BNA) 1986-1987 O.S.H.D. ( 27,703 OHIO MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION; Akron Selle Company, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF AKRON, State of Ohio; Health Commission, City of Akron; Health Department, City of Akron; C. Willi......
  • Florida Rock Industries, Inc. v. U.S., Nos. 85-2588
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • May 14, 1986
    ...893 791 F.2d 893 24 ERC 1758, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,671 FLORIDA ROCK INDUSTRIES, INC., The UNITED STATES, Appellant/Cross-Appellee. Appeal Nos. 85-2588, 85-2609. United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit. May 14, 1986. Page 894 Fred R. Disheroon, Special Litigation Counsel, Dept. of Ju......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • International Paper Company v. Ouellette, No. 85-1233
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1987
    ...aff'd, 707 F.2d 1392 (CA3), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 915, 104 S.Ct. 277, 78 L.Ed.2d 257 (1983); State v. Champion International Corp., 709 S.W.2d 569 (Tenn.1986), cert. pending, No. 86-57. Thus the Act makes it clear that affected States occupy a subordinate position to source States in the f......
  • Manasota-88, Inc. v. Thomas, MANASOTA-88
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 15, 1986
    ...687 799 F.2d 687 24 ERC 2041, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,994 MANASOTA-88, INC., Lee M. THOMAS, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Respondents, and Gardinier, Inc., Intervenor-Respondent. No. 85-3837. United States Court of Appeal......
  • Ohio Mfrs. Ass'n v. City of Akron, No. 86-3191
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • October 31, 1986
    ...824 801 F.2d 824 55 USLW 2188, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,942, 12 O.S.H. Cas.(BNA) 1986-1987 O.S.H.D. ( 27,703 OHIO MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION; Akron Selle Company, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF AKRON, State of Ohio; Health Commission, City of Akron; Health Department, City of Akron; C. Willi......
  • Florida Rock Industries, Inc. v. U.S., Nos. 85-2588
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • May 14, 1986
    ...893 791 F.2d 893 24 ERC 1758, 16 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,671 FLORIDA ROCK INDUSTRIES, INC., The UNITED STATES, Appellant/Cross-Appellee. Appeal Nos. 85-2588, 85-2609. United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit. May 14, 1986. Page 894 Fred R. Disheroon, Special Litigation Counsel, Dept. of Ju......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT