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In an unprecedented victory for Virginia citizens and conservation groups, the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has the right to challenge pollution permits issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“The Court of Appeals has affirmed a critical right of all Virginians the opportunity to prove in court that the state has failed to protect natural resources that belong to us all,” said Jon Mueller, CBF Litigation Director. “This is a significant victory for everyone who cares about the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that feed it.”

The April 4 ruling by a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court overturned a decision last year by a Richmond Circuit Court judge. That judge had ruled that CBF lacked the “standing,” or legal right, to challenge the state for issuing a pollution permit to Philip Morris USA. CBF had challenged the permit because it allows the giant cigarette manufacturer to dump excessive amounts of nitrogen pollution from the company’s Chesterfield County, Va., plant into the already polluted James River.

CBF contends the state permit worsens the most serious problem plaguing the James River and Chesapeake Bay nitrogen pollution and violates the federal Clean Water Act and Virginia Water Control Law.

“Now we can argue in court about the real issue:  Philip Morris’ pollution discharges and the state’s failure to protect the James River,” Mueller said. “The Appeals Court ruling is significant, but CBF’s ultimate goal is to reduce the pollution going into the James River and the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Though most Virginians will probably never realize it, this ruling is absolutely key in confirming the right of groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on behalf of its members to legally challenge state permits that threaten the quality of the water in our rivers, streams and lakes, and the bay,” said Deborah Murray, senior attorney with Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). SELC has fought for years in the courts and in the General Assembly to obtain citizen standing for Virginians, a right long-recognized under federal environmental laws. “Our hats are off to the Bay Foundation for this important victory,” Murray said.

The ruling marks the second time in a year that the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of CBF in a legal action against the Commonwealth. Last July, a three-judge panel of the court overturned a Richmond judge’s ruling that CBF and Citizens for Stumpy Lake, a Hampton Roads conservation group, could not challenge a Virginia wetland protection permit issued to a Hampton Roads developer. That Appeals Court sent that case back to the lower court as well.

Well done CBF!
 

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But...if you give an inch they want a foot...I hope this is not another PETA in the making if you know what I mean. CBF can be very narrow minded.
 

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In what way is CBF narrow-minded?

I second the congrats to Mr. Mueller. What firm represented CBF in this matter?
 

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[q] In what way is CBF narrow-minded? [/q]

Don't get me wrong the CBF's mission of cleaning/protecting the bay is excellent but....

Ask any Tangierman or small town that simply don't have the resources what they think of the CBF...you get my point.

Pat
 
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