Environmental groups set BNSF on track to stop coal pollution
After 5 days of trial, following three years of intense litigation, BNSF finally followed federal Judge Coughenour’s recommendation to settle the lawsuit filed by Sierra Club, et al., for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Plaintiffs took the railroad to court to stop coal pollution into Washington rivers, streams and seas.
Based on the agreement in principle read into the court record, BNSF will undertake a comprehensive study to cover coal cars, clean up known hot-spots of coal accumulation along waterways, and pay one million dollars toward environmental restoration projects in Washington State. The tentative settlement will move the railroad industry towards covering all coal cars that presently discharge millions of pounds of coal to the environment every year.
Evidence presented by plaintiffs -- from eye-witness accounts to BNSF’s own records -- was conclusive as to the ongoing and constant discharge of coal from open cars, provoking Judge Coughenour to quip “Have you ever heard of the coal fairy?” to witnesses who BNSF attorneys tried to question about the source of the pollution.
Science done correctly will show that the simple solution of coal car covers will not only result in the cessation of pollution but will save the rail industry money by reducing the aerodynamic drag caused by boxes traveling across the tracks. Judge Coughenour stated the tentative settlement is a "win-win . . . that will help the rivers and the [Puget] Sound, but also be something that both sides can live with." Read the Court transcript of Agreement in Principle . . . Read Bellingham Herald AP article . . .
Court finds coal trains are point sources under Clean Water Act Plaintiffs have standing to prosecute claims for discharges to waterways at trial. Read the decision . . .
People Ask Executive Branches to Protect their Drinking Water from CAFO Contamination
For two decades Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE), has brought light to a problem that has gone vastly under-attended by federal and state agencies charged with protecting public health and the environment. We have called upon President Obama and Washington state Governor Inslee to enforce the nation's laws and protect the people. Read more . . .
Draft CAFO Water Quality Permit Puts the Health of Tens of Thousands of Washingtonians at Risk
The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a draft concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) general discharge permit, replacing one that expired in 2011. Faced with the opportunity to
protect Washingtonians from industrial agriculture pollution, Ecology instead chose to ignore the recommendations of its own scientists and bowed to "big ag," writing a permit that fails to protect our most fundamental natural resource–clean water. Charlie Tebbutt, who recently prosecuted a drinking water contamination case against three large dairy CAFOs, said "This proposed permit is nothing more than the stuff it is supposed to regulate. Director Bellon has chosen to continue to put the health of tens of thousands of Washingtonians at risk, just like her predecessors. It is shameful." Read the Press Release . . . (contains links to studies, reports, maps, legal opinions and Ecology's permit documents/comment process) Read August 2016 comments submitted to WA Dept. of Ecology . . .
Washington State Dairies Agree to Implement Sweeping Changes Following
Landmark Lawsuit Over Water Supply Contamination
Four Washington State dairies have agreed to implement sweeping changes in their operations following a series of lawsuits brought by the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and Center for Food Safety against the dairies alleging that their mismanagement of manure contaminated water supplies in the Lower Yakima Valley, Washington. The settlements follow a January ruling against Cow Palace, one of the four dairies, finding that the millions of gallons of manure it stored in unlined lagoons and dumped onto crop fields contaminated the soil and aquifer below. Under the terms of the settlements, the dairies will provide clean drinking water to a large number of residents with polluted water and drastically change their operations in ways intended to stop future contamination to the area’s water supply to protect public health and the environment. “This settlement takes the animal factory industry from the Dark Ages into the Age of Enlightenment, while providing important relief to the impacted community,” said Charlie Tebbutt, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The industry must still evolve to a higher level of consciousness and this settlement provides a huge improvement in daily operations. State and federal agencies must now use this settlement as a stepping stone toward providing permanent solutions for protecting human health and the environment from an industry that is causing severe pollution nationwide.”
Read the Press Release . . . Read the Settlements . . .
This case was awarded the 2016 Public Justice Change Maker Award:
Court Finds Animal Factory Causing Immediate Public Health Threat
This decision is the first of its kind in the country that finds that manure from industrial dairies when mishandled, as it is at Cow Palace, is a solid waste that is causing an immediate threat to human health. This facility is no different from the thousands of other animal factories across the country that are causing the same harms to the people around them. It is long past time for local, state and federal health protectors to take up the mantle and protect human health over corporate profits.
Read the Decision on Summary Judgment . . .Read the Order Unsealing Records . . .
Welcome to the Law Offices of Charlie Tebbutt.
Charlie and the office team are primarily environmental lawyers who assist communities, organizations, tribes, unions and individuals across the United States in protecting themselves and their members from industrial pollution and chemical injury. Through litigation, negotiation, and grassroots campaign building, the team helps clients enforce our nation’s environmental laws and hold polluters and regulatory agencies accountable.
During his career at the Western Environmental Law Center, the Atlantic States Legal Foundation, and in private practice, Charlie has brought citizen suit and toxic tort cases concerning pollution and chemical exposure against dozens of Fortune 500 companies in more than 20 states enforcing a broad spectrum of environmental laws. The firm has experience with many environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act (CWA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Clean Air Act (CAA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Emergency Planning and Community Right To Know Act (EPCRA), and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Recent cases include actions against the coal industry, BP and Transocean for the Gulf disaster, large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and improper EPA actions. Charlie also represents victims of toxic chemical exposure seeking compensation for and relief from their injuries.
Charlie with John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry on This Moment on Earth booktour.
In Charlie's words "We advocate to give voice to the people whose voices are ignored or not heard and to the natural systems that have no voice."