News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for May, 2011
  • Reminder About Upcoming ABA SCEL Conference in London, UK

    Posted by on May 19, 2011
    As a liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law, I would like to remind everyone of our upcoming conference in London, UK: "Navigating the New Green Economy: The Challenges of Climate Change and the Opportunities for Clean Energy".  The conference takes place at the London School of Economics, May 23-24, 2011.  I will be moderating a panel on energy efficiency.  Here is a descr...
  • Emanuel Chooses New Environment Commissioner

    Posted by on May 15, 2011
    From Friday's Chicago Tribune: "Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel today followed through on his promise to give the Chicago Transit Authority president he replaced a new gig in his administration. "Rich Rodriguez will take over as commissioner of the Department of Environment, where he will oversee a one-year review of the department's operations. Over the next year, Rodriguez will conduct an audit ...
  • USEPA Determines That Water Quality Standards for Chicago Area Waterway System Are Inadequate

    Posted by on May 13, 2011
    In a letter dated May 11, 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency informed the Illinois EPA that Illinois' water quality standards for certain portions of the Chicago Area Waterway System ("CAWS") are inadequate.  This was first reported by the Chicago Tribune in a front-page story. Illinois last evaluated water quality standards for the CAWS in 1985.  The USEPA letter states...
  • Environmental Register for April 2011

    Posted by on May 11, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued its Environmental Register publication for April 2011.  The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, which discusses progress that the Board made in a number of open rulemaking dockets, including amendments to Nitrogen Oxide emission regulations, regulations governing hospital/medical/infectious waste incinerators, and r...
  • Administrative Law Judge Rules That Illinois’ Universal Waste Rule is not Enforceable by USEPA

    Posted by on May 6, 2011
    On May 5, 2011, Administrative Law Judge Barbara A. Gunning issued an order resolving EPA’s Motion for Partial Accelerated Decision in the matter of Mercury Vapor Processing Technologies, Inc., Docket No. RCRA-05-2010-0015.  This case dealt with a waste storage and treatment facility located in Riverdale, Illinois. USEPA alleged that between February 2005 and November 2007, the defendant rec...
  • Welcome to the New Home of the Illinois Environmental Law Blog!

    Posted by on May 5, 2011
    Thanks for visiting the new home of the Illinois Environmental Law Blog, which provides news and updates on cases, laws, and regulations involving Illinois environmental issues.  I also report on interesting environmental events happening around Illinois.  I'm excited to hear from you in the comments or via e-mail (dscriven-young@pecklaw.com). I would like to connect with you via social media...

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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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