News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for April, 2010
  • Illinois to Receive Money from Federal Government for Energy Efficiency and Cleanup Measures

    Posted by on April 29, 2010
    On April 22nd, the Chicago Tribune published two stories concerning cash from the federal government going to environmental improvements within the State of Illinois. The first story reported that "the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $25 million to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. It'll put the money into a program called the Chicago Region Retrofit Ramp-up Program, which a...
  • $16,000 Settlement of State Enforcement Action Alleging CCDD Violations

    Posted by on April 27, 2010
    On April 15th, the Illinois Pollution Control Board accepted the parties' settlement in People v. R.A. Cullian & Sons, Inc., No. PCB 09-105, which concerned the defendant's clean construction and demolition debris ("CCDD") fill operation at the Farmdale Pit facility, located at 22493 Farmdale Road, in East Peoria, Tazewell County, Illinois. The State alleged that the defendant violated the...
  • U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Asian Carp Case Brought by State of Michigan

    Posted by on April 26, 2010
    The Asian carp case in the U.S. Supreme Court officially ended on April 26th with a two sentence order by the Court: "The motion of Michigan to reopen and for a supplemental decree is denied.  The alternative motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied." The State of Michigan had filed an action in the Supreme Court to order the State of Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclam...
  • Chicago’s Green Roofs

    Posted by on April 25, 2010
    There was an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune on April 20th concerning the building of green roofs in Chicago.  According to the article, the city "now boasts about 500 green roofs that are either finished or underway, according to Department of Environment spokesman Larry Merritt, and they cover 7 million square feet — roughly double the amount of floor space in the Willis Tower....
  • Developer to Pay $8,000 to Settle Alleged Water Pollution Violations

    Posted by on
    On April 15th, the Illinois Pollution Control Board accepted the settlement in People v. Andalusia Ventures, LLC, No. PCB 09-75, which concerned the defendant's residential housing development, known as Fancy Creek Crossing, located at 101st Street West and Andalusia Road (Route 92) in Andalusia, Rock County, Illinois. The State alleged that the defendant violated the Illinois Environmental...
  • Steel Company to Pay $120,000 to Resolve Alleged Hazardous Chemical Reporting Violations

    Posted by on April 23, 2010
    On April 16th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement of a federal enforcement action alleging hazardous chemical reporting violations against Alro Steel Corp., which has a facility in Melrose Park, Illinois. Federal law requires that state and local authorities be notified of hazardous chemical storage.  In the event of a fire or emergency, responders need to kno...
  • Environmental Register for March 2010

    Posted by on April 22, 2010
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued its Environmental Register publication for March 2010. The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, a rulemaking update, a summary of actions of the Board, a summary of new cases, and the Board's calendar. Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments....

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    The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the federal government’s ability to criminally prosecute environmental activists who destroy property under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”).

    In United States v. Johnson, the defendants travelled from Los Angeles, California to a mink farm in Morris, Illinois. The mink farm was in the business of breeding, raising, and selling minks to fur manufacturers. At the mink farm, the defendants released approximately 2000 minks from their cages. They also removed portions of the fence surrounding the mink farm to help the minks escape, and they destroyed the minks’ breeding cards, which were needed to sell the minks to a furrier. In addition, they poured caustic substances on two farm vehicles and spray-painted the words “Liberation is Love” on a barn. The vandalism caused between $120,000 and $200,000 worth of damage. The defendants then began traveling to a fox farm in Roanoke, Illinois, which bred foxes to sell to fur manufacturers. They planned to damage the fox farm as well, but they were arrested by local law enforcement before they arrived at the fox farm. The defendants were charged in state court with possession of burglary tools and were convicted. They were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

    Then, the defendants were charged with violating the AETA by the federal government. Count I of the indictment alleged that they conspired to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging and interfering with the operation of an animal enterprise, and in connection with that purpose, damaged the property of an animal enterprise. Count II alleged that the defendants damaged real and personal property used by an animal enterprise. The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment against them, asserting that the AETA was facially overbroad, was unconstitutionally vague, and violated substantive due process because it labeled persons who committed the act as “terrorists”. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss.

    The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that rejected all of the defendants’ arguments. In particular, the defendants suggested that the AETA prohibited advocacy that caused damage to only intangible property such as profits or goodwill. The court rejected that argument and held that the AETA prohibited destruction of or damage to tangible items and property owned by the animal enterprise. In fact, the court looked at the legislative history of the AETA, which reinforced the conclusion that it was not intended to criminalize speech or expressive conduct that caused damage only to the animal enterprise’s profits or goodwill. Several legislators made statements indicating that, while the statute was being passed to combat the violence being perpetrated against animal enterprises as well as people and entities connected to animal enterprises, Congress was aware of the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to engage in lawful protest against animal enterprises. In particular, the court looked at a speech by Senator Feinstein stating: “I fully recognize that peaceful picketing and public demonstrations against animal testing should be recognized as part of our valuable and sacred right to free expression. For this reason, all conduct protected by the First Amendment is expressly excluded from the scope of this legislation. This law effectively protects the actions of the law-abiding protester while carefully distinguishing the criminal activity of extremists.” In summary, the court found that the text of the statute as well as the legislative history made clear that the statute does not criminalize speech or expressive conduct that causes damage only to intangible profits or goodwill of an animal enterprise.

    The Seventh Circuit had an easy task in this case, deciding to interpret the statute to criminalize destructive conduct but keeping the door open to reasonable protests that do not harm private property. Environmental activists need to be aware of this line in the sand that has been drawn by Congress and the courts.
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