UPDATE, October 31, 2014: Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Aurora Energy Services’ and the Alaska Railroad’s petition for rehearing. Not a single judge voted for the petition. We are hopeful that we can now focus on cleaning up the operation and preventing pollution, rather than continuing to waste money on litigation. Read the order here.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did not linger in deciding the Seward Coal case argued before them in mid-August. A unanimous decision by the three-judge panel was announced today, not even a month after Trustees for Alaska attorney Brian Litmans stood before them arguing the coal loading facility was spilling coal into Resurrection Bay without a permit. The Court agreed.
The decision reverses a prior court decision that the facility’s stormwater permit shielded them from liability for the coal pollution. Aurora Energy Service, LLC and Alaska Railroad Corporation now must face proceedings back in the district court to address bringing the facility into compliance with the Clean Water Act through normal permitting processes. The court could establish a timeline for compliance or other actions in response to the Ninth Circuit’s opinion.
This decision is a big win for Trustees for Alaska’s clients in the case, Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club, which have been working toward a cleaner, healthier Seward for a decade, since the coal loading facility began operating.
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