Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court upholding the decision of the Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) denying Plaintiffs' request for reasonable litigation expenses in this case alleging violations of the Rhode Island Water Pollution Act (Act) and other regulations, holding that Plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable litigation expenses.Plaintiffs appealed from a notice of violation issued by the DEM alleging ten violations of the Act, the Rhode Island Oil Pollution Control Act, and DEM's regulations. After a hearing before the AAD, Plaintiffs prevailed on all but two of the alleged violations. Plaintiffs requested reasonable litigation expenses under the Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals Act (EAJA), but the AAD hearing officer denied the request. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the superior court's decision, holding that DEM Acted without substantial justification in pursuing charges against Plaintiffs and that this was the type of unjust action by the State that the EAJA was designed to ameliorate. The Court remanded the case with directions to enter a judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $69,581.25 for attorneys' fees. View "Rollingwood Acres, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management" on Justia Law

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In a contested enforcement action, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) ordered Power Test Realty Company Limited Partnership to remediate a site onto and under which petroleum had been released and imposed an administrative penalty. A hearing justice with the superior court affirmed. Power Test filed a writ of certiorari, arguing that the superior court erred in imposing liability upon it because it did not cause the discharge of petroleum, there was insufficient evidence demonstrating that it had knowledge of the leaching petroleum, and it owned only a portion of the contaminated site. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Power Test was correctly held liable under the OPCA even where Power Test did not cause the initial discharge of contaminants; (2) there was legally competent evidence to conclude that Power Test had knowledge that its property was the source of petroleum contamination; and (3) the superior court properly determined that DEM did not err in holding Power Test liable for remediating both its own property and a nearby parcel. View "Power Test Realty Co. Ltd. P’ship v. Coit" on Justia Law