News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for June, 2010
  • Illinois Appellate Court Rules That Employers Must Protect Family of Employees From Asbestos Dangers

    Posted by on June 28, 2010
    In Simpkins v. CSX Corp., No. 5-07-0346, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, recently ruled that employers owe the immediate families of their employees a duty to protect against take-home asbestos exposure. The Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that she contracted mesothelioma cancer due to exposure to asbestos brought home on her husband's body and work clothes (commonly re...
  • 2010 American Solar Challenge

    Posted by on June 26, 2010
    I have uploaded photos (via our Facebook page) and video (via our You Tube Channel) from the finish line at the 2010 American Solar Challenge.  The solar cars raced 1,200 miles from Broken Arrow, OK to Naperville, IL. Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments....
  • Owner of Apartment Building to Pay $43,000 Penalty For Failing to Follow Asbestos Requirements During Renovation

    Posted by on June 25, 2010
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently accepted the parties' settlement in People v. Al-Algonquin Apartments, LLC, Case No. PCB 09-39, which concerned a residential apartment building at 1605 East 50th Street in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. The State alleged that the owners of the building violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act by: (1) failing to adequately wet and keep w...
  • Asian Carp Found Above Electric Barrier System

    Posted by on June 23, 2010
    On June 23rd, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee announced that that one Bighead Asian carp was found in Lake Calumet along the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).  This is the first physical specimen that has been found in the CAWS above the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Electric Barrier System that was designed to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The Bighead carp was...
  • EPA Provides Additional Time to Obtain Training and Certifications to Comply with New Lead Rules

    Posted by on June 22, 2010
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued enforcement guidance regarding its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.  Under the rule, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamina...
  • Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Fight VOC Contamination in Community Water Systems

    Posted by on June 21, 2010
    The Illinois General Assembly recently enacted and sent to Governor Quinn Senate Bill 3070, which amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act to prevent carcinogenic volatile organic compounds from exceeding their maximum contaminant levels in the finished water of community water systems by requiring owners and operators of community water systems to take appropriate action when ca...
  • Environmental Register for May 2010

    Posted by on June 20, 2010
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued its Environmental Register publication for May 2010. The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, a rulemaking update, a summary of actions of the Board, information about a provisional variance, the Board's calendar, and Class III Groundwater Final Listing Notices. Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog fo...

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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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    2 weeks ago  ·