Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Articles Posted in Environmental Law
Lawrence Elliott owned and operated the Black Creek Water and Wastewater systems in Forrest County from the 1990s until 2005. The systems are a few miles upstream of an area of Black Creek that is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. The systems suffered numerous violations of environmental regulations, including multiple illegal sewage discharges. Bell Utilities purchased the systems from Elliott in 2005 and vastly improved the situation, expending its own money in an attempt to bring the system into compliance. Bell entered into an Agreed Order with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in which compliance issues were addressed, and in which Bell agreed to put up a financial assurance that would be returned to Bell after two years of adequate compliance. In 2010, Bell sought to sell the Black Creek systems to Utility One, LLC, and to transfer the attendant permits to it. MDEQ refused to transfer Bell’s wastewater permit to Utility One unless Utility One put up a similar financial assurance. Bell appealed the denial of the permit transfer to the chancery court. The chancery court reversed the Permit Board, finding that its actions were arbitrary and capricious because it has not promulgated regulations on how to conduct a regulatory hearing and on when and whether to demand financial assurances prior to permit transfer. It ordered MDEQ and the Permit Board to promulgate such regulations. MDEQ appealed. Because the Supreme Court found that the Permit Board’s demand of the financial assurance from Utility One to transfer the permit was beyond its power, the Court affirmed the portion of the chancery court judgment that reversed the Permit Board. However, because the agencies were not required under the APA to promulgate rules and regulations for formal Permit Board hearings, the Court vacated the portion of the trial court’s judgment that required them to do so.View "Mississippi Comm'n on Environmental Quality v. Bell Utilities of Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law
Riverbend Utilities, Inc. challenged the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Permit Board’s decision to grant tow groundwater withdrawal permits to the Harrison County Utility Authority. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Department’s decision. View "Riverbend Utilities, Inc. v. Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board" on Justia Law
Vicksburg Chemical Company (VCC) filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Included in its bankruptcy estate was over 500 acres of real property, a portion of which was contaminated. Pursuant to an agreed order, the bankruptcy court allowed VCC to abandon the property and allowed the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to choose the purchaser. Without the aid of any guidelines or statutory law regarding this process, MDEQ, at the suggestion of the Attorney General's Office (AG), published a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify interested parties capable of removing the contamination. The plaintiff, Pacific Chlorine, Inc. (PCI), was one of several companies to submit a proposal. MDEQ did not select PCI's proposal, but instead selected Harcros Chemicals, Inc. (Harcros), a company which worked closely with the City of Vicksburg (the City) on its proposal. Aggrieved, PCI sued MDEQ and the City. PCI settled with the City. Following a bench trial, the trial court rendered a judgment against MDEQ. MDEQ appealed to the Supreme Court, raising six assignments of error that fall into three categories: whether PCI is required to exhaust its administrative remedies, whether the trial court erred by denying MDEQ's motion to dismiss/motion for summary judgment, and whether MDEQ is immune from suit under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). This case presented an issue of first impression, the issue being whether MDEQ acted within the scope of its authority when assisting a bankruptcy court with finding a purchaser for contaminated land. The Court found that it was. View "Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality v. Pacific Chlorine, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Bankruptcy, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Government & Administrative Law, Mississippi Supreme Court
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005, W. C. Fore entered into a contract with Harrison County, Mississippi, to remove the large amount of debris that was left behind. The Mississippi State Tax Commission (MSTC) then assessed a fee of $1.00 per ton of debris removed. Fore appealed the assessment to the MSTC Board of Review, claiming that the fee did not apply to emergency waste removal. The Board of Review upheld the assessment. Fore appealed the Board of Review’s decision to the MSTC Full Commission, which also affirmed the assessment. Fore then appealed to the Harrison County Chancery Court, First Judicial District. The chancery court upheld the assessment, and Fore appealed to the Supreme Court. Finding that the MSTC's and chancery court's findings were supported by substantial evidence and that there was no misapprehension of the law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "W. C. Fore, Inc. v. Miss. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law
Appellant Shirley Collins filed suit against Appellees-Defendants Koppers, Inc. and several others, alleging she was injured as a result of environmental contamination caused by a wood-treatment facility. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss after Collins repeatedly failed to comply with a court order to provide expert opinions that causally linked her injuries to the alleged contamination. The trial court granted the Defendantsâ motion to dismiss and awarded them attorneyâs fees. On appeal, Appellant argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it did not grant her enough time to respond to Defendantsâ discovery requests. âIt is obvious that the trial judge exercised considerable patience and restraint in dealing with the delays caused by [Appellantâs] counsel. The record is replete with examples of instances of the failure of [Appellantâs] counsel to abide by the orders of the trial court.â Finding no abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial courtâs ruling.