By Craig B. Simonsen and Jeryl L. Olson

The District Court of Idaho, in Idaho Conservation League v. Atlanta Gold Corporation, No. 11-CV-161 (January 9, 2012), recently granted summary judgment to allow standing in a citizen’s suit. In the case, Atlantic Gold Corporation (Defendant) held a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit which regulated the discharge of water from the a mine, which was the subject of the litigation. The Plaintiffs contended that the Defendant’s discharge of water from the mine near the town of Atlanta, Idaho, was not in compliance with the Clean Water Act. The Defendant asserted that the Plaintiffs lacked standing, and even if they did have standing, that their claim was moot.

The Court found the alleged actual and particular injury in fact – the NPDES permit discharge limit exceedance, that it could be traced to the Defendant, and that the alleged injuries could be redressed by a favorable ruling from the Court. “For all of these reasons, Plaintiffs have established standing.” Citing to Gwaltney of Smithfield, Ltd., v. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc., 484 U.S. 49 (1987) and Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., 528 U.S. 167 (2000), the Court also granted partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. It found standing, and that the claims were not moot, coupled with proof of past and continuing violations established by the discharge monitoring reports (DMRs), which were not disputed.

The Court concluded that “[i]t is reasonable to conclude that it is not ‘absolutely clear’ that [the Defendant’s] discharges are not likely to recur in the future, but that, instead, the evidence indicates they will continue. The EPA has not released [the Defendant] from the requirements of its permit, nor has [the Defendant] taken steps … so that its discharges will come into compliance with the effluent limitations stated in the permit.”