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Clean Water Action v. Searles Auto Recycling, Corp.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 7, 2017

CLEAN WATER ACTION, Plaintiff,
v.
SEARLES AUTO RECYCLING, CORP., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Clean Water Action, a nationwide, non-profit, public benefit corporation that works to protect the nation's water resources (“plaintiff”), claims that defendant Searles Auto Recycling Corp. (“Searles” or “defendant”) has violated the Clean Water Act (“the CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq., by failing to comply with the requirements of its Stormwater Permit. Searles' motion to dismiss is now pending before the Court. For the reasons that follow, that motion will be denied.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Searles operates an automobile salvage yard on Easthampton Road, in Northampton, MA (“the Facility”). When rainwater or snowmelt come into contact with the Facility, the subsequent stormwater runoff is contaminated with pollutants because the Facility conducts several of its industrial operations outside. The polluted stormwater flows from the Facility into catch basins located on Easthampton Road, and eventually into Mill River through connected pathways of wetlands and waterways.

         Clean Water Action alleges that its members have recreational, aesthetic and environmental interests in Mill River including using its water and the surrounding area for fishing, wildlife observation and other outdoor activities.

         In May, 2016, Clean Water Action sent Searles a

60-day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit Regarding NonCompliance with Federal CWA's Industrial Stormwater Discharge Requirements [“the notice”.]

         After receiving the notice, Searles retained professionals, who investigated the Facility and prepared a Notice of Intent for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity (“NOI”). In July, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“the EPA”) issued Searles a Multi-Sector General Permit ID: MAR 053878 (“Stormwater Permit” or “Permit”) pursuant to the CWA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”). Among other things, the Permit requires in §§ 2.1 and 2.5 that Searles “minimize effluent discharges” by implementing adequate “control measures”.

         In August, 2016, Searles notified Clean Water Action that the EPA had issued it a Stormwater Permit to demonstrate its compliance with the CWA. In October, 2016, Clean Water Action filed a complaint alleging that Searles' was in violation of the CWA. Shortly thereafter, Searles filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) which plaintiff opposes.

         II. Legal Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal subject matter jurisdiction is never presumed. Viqueira v. First Bank, 140 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1998). To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proving its existence. Id.

         When evaluating such a motion, a court must accept all well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Sanchez ex rel. D.R.-S. v. United States, 671 F.3d 86, 106-07 (1st Cir. 2012). In its analysis, a court may consider materials outside the pleadings and engage in preliminary fact-finding to make its ultimate legal conclusion. Skwira v. United States, 344 F.3d 64, 71-2 (1st Cir. 2003). Furthermore, under the First Circuit Court of Appeals' well-pled complaint rule, a court must disregard statements that “merely offer legal conclusion[s] . . . or [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action”. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). Dismissal should be allowed only if, taking all plaintiff's allegations as true, subject matter jurisdiction cannot be justified. Id.

         B. ...


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