News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for January, 2011
  • Court Rules That Landfill Cannot Prevent Water Authority From Commenting on Permit

    Posted by on January 30, 2011
    The Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, recently issued an opinion affirming the denial of a preliminary injunction in Clinton Landfill, Inc. v. Mahomet Valley Water Authority, Case No. 4-10-0704, which concerned the plaintiff's attempt to get permits for a chemical-waste landfill.  Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the defendant seeking sought to enjoin de...
  • Illinois Environmental News Update

    Posted by on January 28, 2011
    Here's a look at what has been making news in the Illinois environmental community: (1) Governor Pat Quinn announces 20-year agreements with wind and solar energy vendors to supply Ameren and ComEd with renewable electricity to provide to consumers throughout the state.  http://tinyurl.com/4quhbny (2) The Illinois EPA refers to the Illinois Attorney General’s office an enforcement ...
  • Please Attend Today’s Event Featuring Chief Legal Counsel of Illinois EPA

    Posted by on January 27, 2011
    Please attend our YLS Environmental Law Committee's free event today at 12:15 pm at the Chicago Bar Association, featuring John Kim of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.  As Chief Legal Counsel, Mr. Kim oversees the IEPA’s enforcement cases and coordinates cases with the USEPA, the Illinois Attorney General, and local state’s attorneys.  Mr. Kim also provides legal interpret...
  • Interview with Tim Gieseke, the Author of “EcoCommerce 101”

    Posted by on January 26, 2011
    Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Gieseke, author of the book EcoCommerce 101.  Mr. Gieseke is the founder of Ag Resource Strategies, LLC, a business that develops and implements on-farm environmental quality assurance programs.  Please check out the website for his book at http://www.ecocommerce101.com/.  Here is the transcript of my interview with Mr. Gieseke: Scriven-...
  • City Settles State Enforcement Action Alleging Water Pollution Violations Due to Sewer Overflows

    Posted by on January 25, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently accepted the parties' stipulation and proposed settlement in People v. City of Colchester, Case No. PCB 11-20, which concerned Colchester’s sewage treatment plant and overflows that occurred at Colchester’s Bishop Street, Cole Street, and North Street lift stations in association with a 2.5-inch rainfall.  The city is located approximately sev...
  • Settlement of State Enforcement Action Alleging Fish Kill Resulting From Demolition of Swine Production Facility

    Posted by on January 23, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently accepted the parties' stipulation and proposed settlement in People v. Gerald N. Knoblauch, LLC, Case No. PCB 11-19, which concerns a fishkill resulting from improper demolition of a former swine production facility located along Brick Town Road in the Southeast Quarter of Section 17, T28N in Cazenovia Township, Woodford County, Illinois. The Stat...
  • Environmental Register for December 2010

    Posted by on January 21, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued its Environmental Register publication for December 2010. The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, which discusses progress that the Board made in a number of open rulemaking dockets. The Environmental Register also contains a rulemaking update, a summary of actions of the Board, a summary of new cases, and the Board'...

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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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