UNC’s Motion to Dismiss Environmental Complaint Denied

A Middle District of North Carolina Judge filed an order rejecting a motion to dismiss on Wednesday filed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The university was seeking to dismiss a Clean Air Act lawsuit against it. The court ruled that subject matter jurisdiction did exist and that the plaintiffs’ allegations of repeated permit violations were sufficient for the lawsuit to continue. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. The organizations claimed that UNC repeatedly violated its Clean Air Act permit in its “operation of air pollution sources” on the Chapel Hill campus. UNC tried to dismiss the 10 claims against it cited in the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. 

The organizations responded to the motion to dismiss in August, stating that the Center for Biological Diversity had spent two years investigating and making requests for compliance and permit records from UNC, the University’s Title V facilities, and state and federal organizations, but was not successful in requiring the compliance records. The response said that the defendant’s arguments were premature because more discovery is needed. The plaintiffs further claimed that their complaint was sufficiently pled and would be enough to deny the motion for dismissal on its own. 

The defendant, according to the order, did attach a copy of its air pollution permit as part of the legal matter. The order dismissing the defendant’s motion said that the plaintiffs did sufficiently assert at least two violations, as required in Clean Air Act lawsuits, so the citizen lawsuit is valid. The court rebutted UNC’s arguments relating to claims that UNC violated heat inputs for two boilers, violated inspection requirements, and violated other conditions of its air pollution permit. 

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