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Natural Resources Defense Counsel v. Illinois Power Resources, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

July 18, 2017

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNSEL, RESPIRATORY HEALTH ASSOCIATION, and SIERRA CLUB, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
ILLINOIS POWER RESOURCES, LLC, and ILLINOIS POWER RESOURCES GENERATING, LCC, Defendants.

          ORDER & OPINION

          JOE BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge.

         The matter before the Court is Defendants' demand for the determination of civil penalties through a trial by jury (Doc. 91). For the reasons explained below, this Court finds that Defendants are not entitled to a jury trial for the determination of civil penalties and therefore, the Court strikes Defendants' jury demand.

         Background[1]

         On July 30, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint against Defendants for violations under the Clean Air Act and equivalent Illinois law. (Doc. 88). On August 17, 2015, Defendants filed an Answer and demanded a “trial by jury on all issues so triable.” (Doc. 91). On March 2, 2017, this Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefing as to whether the determination of civil penalties is an issue triable by jury. On March 17, 2017, both Plaintiffs and Defendants concurrently filed their briefs on this issue. (Docs. 136; 137). On March 24, 2017, both Plaintiffs and Defendants filed their reply briefs. (Docs. 140; 141). Therefore, the matter is fully briefed and ready for determination.

         Legal Standards

         The Clean Air Act (“CAA”) provides that any citizen may bring suit on their own behalf under the Act. The CAA citizen-suit provisions state, in relevant part, that:

The district courts shall have jurisdiction, without regard to the amount in controversy or the citizenship of the parties, to enforce such an emission standard or limitation, or such an order, or to order the Administrator to perform such act or duty, as the case may be, and to apply any appropriate civil penalties (except for actions under paragraph (2)).”

42 U.S.C. § 7604(a) (emphasis added).

         Furthermore, the CAA provides factors for the Court to consider when determining a penalty assessment under the Act. That provision states:

“In determining the amount of any penalty to be assessed under this section or section 7604(a) of this title, the Administrator or the court, as appropriate, shall take into consideration (in addition to such other factors as justice may require) the size of the business, the economic impact of the penalty on the business, the violator's full compliance history and good faith efforts to comply, the duration of the violation as established by any credible evidence (including evidence other than the applicable test method), payment by the violator of penalties previously assessed for the same violation, the economic benefit of noncompliance, and the seriousness of the violation.”

42 U.S.C. § 7413(e)(1) (emphasis added).

         Discussion

         Defendants are not entitled to a jury determination of the civil penalties; therefore, Defendants' demand for a jury trial on the remedies is stricken. Both parties concede that the Court determines the amount of any civil penalty. (Doc. 140 at 1). However, Defendants argue that they are entitled to have a “jury decide the facts on which any civil penalty is based.” (Doc. 140 at 1).

         The Court finds that the Defendants are not entitled to have a jury decide the facts upon which the judge will use to determine the civil penalties for several reasons. First, the plain language of the CAA does not provide for a jury right to determine that facts upon which the civil penalties are decided. Second, the United States Supreme Court has held that the determination of civil penalties is not a fundamental element of the jury trial. Third, several United States Courts of ...


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