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Louisiana Environmental Action Network v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 26, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Reconsideration[1] filed by Plaintiffs, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (“LEAN”) and Stephanie Anthony (“Anthony”) or (“Plaintiffs”), of the Court's Ruling[2] granting partial summary judgment in favor of Defendant, ExxonMobil Corp. d/b/a ExxonMobil Chemical Co. (“Defendant”). Defendant has filed an Opposition[3] to this motion to which Plaintiffs filed a Reply.[4] For the following reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' motion should be denied.


         Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit claiming the Defendant has violated the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) by emitting air pollutants in violation of its permit and by failing to report unauthorized discharges in accordance with applicable regulations.[5] Plaintiffs bring this suit pursuant to the Clean Air Act's citizen suit provision.[6] The Defendant has operated a chemical manufacturing facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana since the 1940s. In addition to other environmental statutes, this facility is regulated by the CAA. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“LDEQ”) has issued to the facility several operating permits pursuant to Louisiana's Part 70 permitting program which implements Title V of the CAA. At issue in the pending motion is Plaintiffs' second cause of action which alleges that Defendant submitted unauthorized discharge notification reports that did not include information required under the Louisiana Administrative Code's general written notification requirements (Section 3925)[7] which are referenced in the current Code provisions requiring notification of unauthorized discharge of any air pollutant (Section 927).[8]

         The Defendant moved for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs' second cause of action on the following grounds: (1) the regulation Plaintiffs sought to enforce have never been incorporated into Louisiana's State Implementation Plan and were therefore not federally enforceable under the CAA; or alternatively, (2) Plaintiffs lacked statutory standing to bring this cause of action for a requirement that has not been incorporated into the Louisiana State Implementation Plan.

         Plaintiffs conceded that the 1993 amendment to Section 927 has never been incorporated into the Louisiana State Implementation Plan (“SIP”) and was, thus, federally unenforceable under CAA;[9] however, Plaintiffs sought a dismissal without prejudice. The Court declined this request citing Fifth Circuit precedent which forecloses granting summary judgment without prejudice as a summary judgment is a procedural adjudication on the merits.[10]

         Plaintiffs now move for reconsideration of the Court's previous Ruling on the basis that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' second cause of action. Plaintiffs also claim the Court has the authority to convert Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment to a 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss and dismiss the second cause of action without prejudice.


         A. Motion for Reconsideration

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly allow motions for reconsideration of an order.[11] The Fifth Circuit treats a motion for reconsideration challenging a prior judgment as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend.[12] However, reconsideration of a judgment under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remedy” used “sparingly” by the courts.[13] A motion for reconsideration calls into question the correctness of a judgment and is permitted only in narrow situations, “primarily to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.”[14] Manifest error is defined as “‘[e]vident to the senses, especially to the sight, obvious to the understanding, evident to the mind, not obscure or hidden, and is synonymous with open, clear, visible, unmistakable, indubitable, indisputable, evidence, and self-evidence.'”[15]

         The Fifth Circuit has noted that “such a motion is not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before entry of judgment.”[16] Nor should it be used to “re-litigate prior matters that ... simply have been resolved to the movant's dissatisfaction.”[17] Within the Middle District, “three major grounds” have been recognized as justifying reconsideration: “(1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; and (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.”[18]

         B. The Parties' Arguments

         Plaintiffs allege that the Court's dismissal of their second cause of action with prejudice constitutes a clear error or results in manifest injustice. Plaintiffs contend Defendant's basis for summary judgment raised the issue of subject matter jurisdiction and therefore should have been raised as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs reason that, since the regulations within Section 3925 are federally unenforceable, the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this claim and, since it did not address the claim on its merits, the Court should not have dismissed the claim with prejudice.

         Defendant opposes Plaintiffs' motion and argues that the Court granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs' second cause of action because Plaintiffs were unable to meet their summary judgment burden of establishing an essential element of this claim - that certain state law requirements be incorporated into a State Implementation Plan - not because subject matter jurisdiction was lacking. Thus, Defendant contends that summary judgment was granted because Plaintiffs failed to show the existence of an emission standard or limitation under the CAA, an essential element of their claim. Defendant further claims that Plaintiffs raised the subject matter ...

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