News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
  • EPA To Oversee Cleanup of Lead-Contaminated Soil at Chicago Site

    Posted by on October 7, 2015
    U.S. EPA Region V recently issued a press release relating to cleanup at a site in Chicago.  EPA "announced a settlement with H. Kramer & Co., the City of Chicago and the BNSF Railway Co. to remove lead-contaminated soil near the Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen.  The alley at 21st Place behind the H. Kramer foundry and a portion of the BSNF railway spur at 21st Place and Cermak Roa...
  • Seventh Circuit Finds Superfund Liability Limited by Release Signed in 1920

    Posted by on September 24, 2015
    The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a 95-year old agreement released a defendant from contribution costs under the Superfund statute.  In Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company v. Beazer East, Inc., Peoples Gas sued to recover costs it had incurred in conducting environmental investigation and removal activities at a property that it partially owned.  At issue in this case was ...
  • U.S. EPA Awards $1 Million to Redevelop Brownfield Sites in Illinois

    Posted by on June 25, 2014
    The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that three Illinois communities will be receiving grants to cleanup contaminated properties and boost local economies by redeveloping former brownfield sites.  A brownfield site is a piece of property that is contaminated by a hazardous substance or other pollutant that complicates the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of that property...
  • Illinois Pollution Control Board Releases Environmental Register for May 2013

    Posted by on June 12, 2013
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently issued its Environmental Register for May 2013.  The Environmental Register features a letter from Board Chairman Thomas Holbrook, which summarizes the activity that the Board has conducted in several rulemaking dockets.  Two rulemaking dockets of particular interest are: (more…)...
  • Reminder: “Adding Value With Environmental Law” Seminar is this Wednesday!

    Posted by on March 18, 2013
    You're invited to register for "Adding Value with Environmental Law", which is sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association's Environmental Law Committee.  This is the CBA's annual environmental seminar and will take place this Wednesday, March 20th, from 3pm to 6pm at the Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court.  As a reminder, here's the description of this great program: (more…)...
  • Environmental Legislative Update

    Posted by on April 1, 2012
    On March 21st, I spoke at the Chicago Bar Association's "Environmental Law & Practice" seminar, featuring excellent speakers providing updates on the main environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (also known as "EPCRA") and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (also k...
  • 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.   ...

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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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