News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for 2011
  • Illinois Environmental News Update

    Posted by on December 30, 2011
    Here's your Illinois environmental news update for this morning from across the internet: (1) Crews worked overnight to clean up more than 1,400 gallons of fuel spilled into a storm sewer that discharges into the Fox River. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20111229/news/712299860/ (2) Chicago Tribune provides "12 simple steps to go green in 2012". http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/op...
  • Business Owners and Managers Learn to Use Environmental Audit Policies at Chicago Bar Association Presentation by Attorney Dave Scriven-Young

    Posted by on
    The recent seminar, "How Businesses Can Take Advantage of U.S. EPA’s Audit Policy", helped business owners and managers implement strategies to lower the amount of potential civil penalties for environmental violations. Chicago, Illinois (PRWEB) December 30, 2011 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/12/prweb9068043.htm) "Business owners and managers should plan ahead to take advantage of en...
  • Save the Date for 1/24/12 Webinar: Environmental Hot Topics for 2012

    Posted by on December 29, 2011
    On January 24, 2012 at noon (central), Chicago environmental attorney Dave Scriven-Young will present a webinar entitled "Environmental Hot Topics for 2012".  This free program will look at the year ahead and analyze upcoming environmental legal issues, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, climate change regulations, water issues, and concerns over the Keystone XL Pipeline.   ...
  • Illinois Environmental News Update

    Posted by on
    Here's your Illinois environmental news update for this morning from across the internet: (1) Approximately 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from an Federal Aviation Administration facility into a city storm sewer, which discharges into the nearby Fox River. The City of Aurora said the spill presents no danger to the public water supply. http://www.suntimes.com/9692969-417/diesel-fuel-leaks-...
  • Nitrogen Fertilizer Company Settles Civil Environmental Enforcement Action Alleging Clean Air Act Violations for $108,000

    Posted by on December 28, 2011
    The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a proposed settlement of a civil environmental enforcement action brought against Rentech Nitrogen, LLC.  The settlement concerns the defendant's nitric acid production plant in East Dubuque, Illinois. Nitric acid is used in the production of ammonium nitrate and other fertilizers and explosives. The nitric acid process results in the emission...
  • Illinois Environmental News Update

    Posted by on December 27, 2011
    Here's your Illinois environmental news update for this morning from across the internet: (1) Newly constructed pump at the Groot Industries Inc. yard in Round Lake Park dispenses compressed natural gas, which company officials say will offer a better long-term alternative for powering its fleet of waste disposal trucks.  It is also projected to eventually be the first large-scale plant acces...
  • Illinois Environmental News Update–Holiday Weekend Edition

    Posted by on December 26, 2011
    Here's your Illinois environmental news update from the holiday weekend from across the internet: (1) Citing tougher federal clean-air rules, Ameren Energy Resources commences shutdown of its coal- and oil-fired power plant on the Illinois River about 60 miles west of Springfield. http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x1282421696/Tim-Landis-Ameren-begins-shutdown-of-Meredosia-plant (more…)...

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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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