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Apalachicola Riverkeeper v. Taylor Energy Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 7, 2015

APALACHICOLA RIVERKEEPER, ET AL., Plaintiff
v.
TAYLOR ENERGY COMPANY, LLC, Defendant

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For Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Plaintiffs: Machelle Rae Lee Hall, LEAD ATTORNEY, Adam Babich, Morgan N. Embleton, Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, New Orleans, LA; Heather A. Govern, PRO HAC VICE, National Environmental Law Center, Boston, MA.

For Waterkeeper Alliance, Plaintiff: Machelle Rae Lee Hall, LEAD ATTORNEY, Adam Babich, Morgan N. Embleton, Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, New Orleans, LA; Heather A. Govern, PRO HAC VICE, National Environmental Law Center, Boston, MA; Justin Bloom, PRO HAC VICE, Murray Law Firm, New Orleans, LA.

For Taylor Energy Company, L.L.C., Defendant: Paul J. Goodwine, LEAD ATTORNEY, Taylor P. Mouledoux, Looper Goodwine & Ballew P.C., New Orleans, LA; Bret A. Sumner, Michael L. Beatty, Beatty & Wozniak, P.C., Denver, CO; Malinda Morain, William Ernest Sparks, PRO HAC VICE, Beatty & Wozniak, P.C., Denver, CO.

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ORDER AND REASONS

SUSIE MORGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This is a citizens suit under the Clean Water Act (" CWA" )[1] and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (" RCRA" ).[2] The remaining Plaintiffs are Apalachicola Riverkeeper (" Apalachicola" ), Louisiana Environmental Action Network (" LEAN" ), and Waterkeeper Alliance (" Waterkeeper" ).[3] They allege Taylor Energy Company, LLC (" Taylor" ) has violated the CWA and RCRA by discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico without a permit from wells connected to Taylor's Mississippi Canyon 20 (" MC-20" ) platform.

Taylor has moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiffs lack the requisite standing to maintain this suit.[4] Plaintiffs can survive this motion if they establish a genuine issue of material fact as to each of the following: (1) at least one member of each Plaintiff has standing to sue in his or her own right; (2) the interests each Plaintiff seeks to protect are germane to its organizational purpose; and (3) neither the claims asserted nor the relief requested

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requires the participation of Plaintiffs' members.[5]

For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED. There are genuine issues of material fact that must be resolved at trial.

BACKGROUND

This is the second time Taylor has challenged standing. The first challenge occurred almost three years ago in the form of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1).[6] In connection with that motion, the Court reviewed the second amended complaint and the affidavits of three purported members of Plaintiffs--Scott Porter (" Porter" ), Paul Orr (" Orr" ), and Arthur Tonsmeire (" Tonsmeire" ).[7] Accepting the allegations as true, the Court denied the motion to dismiss.[8]

Approximately two years later, Taylor re-urged its standing argument, this time in the form of a motion for summary judgment. Taylor contends the circumstances have changed since the Court's previous ruling. The parties have conducted discovery, and Taylor has deposed Porter, Orr, and Tonsmeire. Taylor contends the deposition testimony contradicts the attestations in the affidavits. With the veracity of the affidavits fatally compromised, Taylor contends there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding Plaintiffs' inability to establish associational standing through Porter, Orr, and Tonsmeire.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when " the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." [9] A genuine dispute exists " if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." [10] The Court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,[11] mindful that " [c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ." [12]

DISCUSSION

Taylor contends Apalachicola, LEAN, and Waterkeepers lack standing to pursue their claims in federal court. The doctrine of standing derives from Article III of the Constitution, which limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to " Cases" and " Controversies." [13] A case is not justiciable unless the plaintiff has standing to sue.[14] An organization has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when (1) at least one member would ...


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