UNC Granted Summary Judgment In Clean Air Act Lawsuit

The Middle District of North Carolina ruled on Tuesday in favor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in a Clean Air Act lawsuit, and dismissed the case against it alleging that coal-fired combustion broilers owned by the university were not in compliance with the federal law. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on each of the nine claims and denied the plaintiffs’ cross-motion for summary judgment, and said it determined that the plaintiffs either lack standing or do not have evidence for each of the claims. 

The memorandum explained that UNC is authorized to emit a limited amount of pollutants, but that the plaintiffs alleged it was violating conditions of the permit including monitoring and inspections. The air pollution sources are located in UNC’s Chapel Hill campus and the university is approved to put specific substances into the broilers. 

Reportedly, the plaintiffs filed the case as a citizen lawsuit under the Clean Air Act and claimed that they should merit relief under that provision, and had standing as organizations and on behalf of their members.  UNC countered arguing that the plaintiffs were not able to show that they had injuries traceable to the actions of the university. 

The court specifically addressed claims one and nine which alleged use of broilers and generators in ways that are not authorized by the permit, including that the broilers exceeded permitted hourly heat input and were operated along with other pollution sources. The court said it is undisputed that UNC emits harmful pollutants through its boilers and generators , however, the filing said that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently show that these injuries were traceable to the actions of the defendant. 

In October, the court denied a motion from UNC seeking to dismiss the filing, reasoning that the plaintiffs did have subject matter jurisdiction and sufficient allegations that the defendant had violated its permit. 

The plaintiffs are represented by lawyers from the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. The defendant is represented by Moore & Van Allen.