Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
Griswold v. Camputaro
In certified appeal arising from a consolidated zoning appeal and enforcement action relating to a manufacturing facility the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the superior court denying proposed intervenors' motions to intervene and remanding the case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred in denying the motions to intervene as untimely.Since 1997, the manufacturing facility at issue had been subject to a stipulated judgment imposing various restrictions on its operation. In 2015, the trial court opened and modified the 1997 stipulated judgment by agreement of the parties. The public, however, had been informed that the parties' joint motion to open and modify the judgment would not be heard until one week later. Two proposed intervenors sought to intervene, alleging environmental harm. The trial court denied the motions to intervene as untimely. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the trial court's expedited consideration of the motion to open and modify the stipulated judgment violated the proposed intervenors' right to timely, accurate notice and their statutory right to intervene and to participate in the hearing on the stipulated judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, adopting the Appellate Court's opinion as a proper statement of the issues and applicable law concerning those issues. View "Griswold v. Camputaro" on Justia Law
Connecticut Energy Marketers Ass’n v. Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
Connecticut Energy Marketers Association brought this action against the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (collectively, Defendants) alleging that Defendants violated the Environmental Policy Act when Defendants approved a plan for a significant expansion of the use of natural gas in the state without evaluating the environmental impact of an increase in the use of natural gas pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 22a-1b(c). Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss, arguing that no environmental impact evaluation was required because Defendants’ activities did not constitute “actions which may significantly affect the environment” for purposes of section 22a-1b(c). The trial court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in granting Defendants’ motions to dismiss on the ground that the requirement of an environmental impact evaluation in section 22a-1b(c) does not apply to Defendants’ activities in this case. View "Connecticut Energy Marketers Ass’n v. Department of Energy & Environmental Protection" on Justia Law
Sams v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
Plaintiffs installed a gabion seawall on their property to mitigate the effects of erosion. Plaintiffs did not seek approval from the town or the department of environmental protection (department) before constructing the seawall. The town subsequently issued a cease and desist order to Plaintiffs, and the department issued a notice of violation to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs submitted a permit application to the department attempting to obtain permission to retain the seawall. The department denied the application and ordered Plaintiffs to remove the seawall. Plaintiffs challenged the removal order. A department hearing officer determined that the department properly exercised jurisdiction and that the department had the authority to order the wall to be removed. The trial court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the department properly asserted jurisdiction over the seawall; (2) the department properly asserted jurisdiction under the Coastal Management Act; (3) substantial evidence supported the department's findings and conclusions; and (4) the hearing officer's decision to order the removal of the entire seawall was not an abuse of discretion. View "Sams v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law
Murphy v. EAPWJP, LLC
The named defendant, EAPWJP, LLC (EAP) appealed from the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the trial court granting the plaintiffs and the defendants-cross claimants a prescriptive easement over a pathway crossing property owned by EAP that the plaintiffs and the defendants-cross claimants had used for many years to access a nearby beach. The pathway traversed protected tidal wetlands and was covered in part by a wooden walkway installed without appropriate permits. The Supreme Court granted certification to appeal to ask whether the appellate court properly concluded that construction and use of a walkway deemed to be a per se public nuisance could establish a prescriptive easement over the underlying tidal wetlands. The Court dismissed the appeal as improvidently granted, concluding that the issue raised by the certified question went beyond the scope of the record below, and therefore, the issue was not properly preserved. View "Murphy v. EAPWJP, LLC" on Justia Law
Bateson v. Weddle
Defendant Gary Weddle and the intervening Defendant, the conservation commission of the town of Fairfield, appealed from the trial court's decision granting the writ of quo warranto filed by Plaintiffs, certain concerned taxpayers of the town of Fairfield, and ordering Weddle's removal from the office of wetlands compliance officer. On appeal, the Supreme Court reviewed the procedural and substantive requirements for maintaining a quo warranto action. The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, holding (1) plaintiffs demonstrated sufficient interest to establish standing to pursue the quo warranto action; and (2) the trial court properly granted Plaintiffs' writ of quo warranto on the basis that Weddle's appointment to the wetland compliance officer position violated the town charter by usurping the office of the conservation director. View "Bateson v. Weddle" on Justia Law
Shanahan v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
This appeal raised several issues regarding the scope of the jurisdiction of the department of environmental protection to regulate activity "in the tidal, coastal or navigable waters of the state waterward of the high tide line" under Conn. Gen. Stat. 22a-359. Plaintiff appealed from the trial court's judgment denying his administrative appeal contesting the department's order directing Plaintiff to remove a seawall that he had constructed on his property along Long Island Sound without having obtained a permit in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. 22a-361. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that substantial evidence showed at least part of Plaintiff's seawall was constructed waterward of the high tide line, properly concluded that section 22a-359 was not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Plaintiff's seawall, and properly denied Plaintiff's discovery request with respect to his claim of unconstitutional vagueness; but (2) in the absence of a finding by the department that the entire seawall was constructed waterward of the high tide line, the trial court improperly determined that the department had jurisdiction under section 22a-361 to order removal of the entire seawall. View "Shanahan v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law
David Caron Chrysler Motors, LLC v. Goodhall’s, Inc.
David Caron purchased a majority membership in Goodhall's Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge-Jeep-Eagle, LLC without having obtained the written consent of Goodhall's, Inc. (Goodhall's), in violation of Goodhall's lease with Goodhall's Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge-Jeep-Eagle. The lease idenitified Goodhall's as the landlord and Goodhall's Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge-Jeep-Eagle as the tenant. After a dispute arose concerning the party responsible for remediating certain environmental conditions on the property, Plaintiffs, David Caron and David Caron Chrysler Motors, filed suit against Defendants, Goodhall's and others, claiming that Defendants had violated provisions of its lease regarding Goodhall's responsibility for preexisting environmental conditions and Goodhall's warranty of fitness and habitability. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that no contract existed between the parties to this action because the assignment of the majority interest in the tenant to Caron was invalid. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the appellate court improperly failed to consider Plaintiffs' claim that the trial court had improperly concluded that no contract existed between David Caron Chrysler Motors and Goodhall's; and (2) the trial court was incorrect in finding that, because Goodhall's did not consent to the assignment, there was no contract between David Caron Chrysler Motors and Goodhall's. View "David Caron Chrysler Motors, LLC v. Goodhall's, Inc." on Justia Law
Comm’r of Envtl. Prot. v. State Five Indus. Park, Inc.
Defendants, State Five Industrial Park and Jean Farricielli, appealed from a trial court judgment holding them liable, after invoking both reverse and traditional veil piercing principles, for a $3.8 million judgment rendered against Jean's husband, Joseph Farricielli, and five corporations that he owned and/or controlled, in an environmental enforcement action brought by Plaintiffs, the commissioner of environmental protection, the town of Hamden, and the town's zoning enforcement officer. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment, holding that the facts that were proven in this case did not warrant reverse veil piercing, and judgment on Plaintiffs' veil piercing claims should be rendered in favor of Defendants. View "Comm'r of Envtl. Prot. v. State Five Indus. Park, Inc." on Justia Law
Taylor v. Conservation Comm’n
Plaintiff, landowner of property consisting in part of wetland soil, filed a petition for a declaratory ruling with the Fairfield town conservation commission, seeking a determination that certain activities, including the construction of roads, were permitted as of right pursuant to section 4.1(a) of the town's inland wetlands and watercourses regulations. The commission, acting it its capacity as the town's inland wetlands and watercourses agency, denied the petition. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff's administrative appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly determined that Conn. Gen. Stat. 22a-40(a)(1) and section 4.1(a) of the regulations did not permit, as of right, the filling of wetlands to construct roads, irrespective of whether the roads are directly related to the farming operation.
Ventres v. Goodspeed Airport, L.L.C.
In 2000, the manager of the Goodspeed Airport cut down trees and woody vegetation on property owned by a land trust. A total of six actions were filed as a result of the clear-cutting. In addition to instituting two of three consolidated actions, the airport brought two federal actions, and the district court found in favor of the land trust in both actions. In state court three other actions were consolidated. The trial court concluded that (1) the airport parties' claims for substantive and procedural due process were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and (2) the airport parties' claims claims for first amendment retaliation and abuse of process were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that either the issues were actually litigated in the federal actions and thus are barred by collateral estoppel, or the claims could have been raised in the federal actions and thus are barred by res judicata.