A federal court in Missouri has ruled that a plaintiff in a pending RCRA citizen suit does not have a right to intervene in a later-filed EPA enforcement action against the same defendant alleging violations of the same environmental laws.United States v. The Doe Run Res. Corp., No. 10-1895 (E.D. Mo. 5/10/11). Granting defendants’ motion to dismiss four counts of plaintiff’s complaint in intervention, the court rejected arguments that issues in the citizen suit could become moot if the EPA enforcement action were resolved. According to the court, “it is not a foregone conclusion” that the proposed consent decree will be approved. “Thus, it would be mere speculation for the court to make a determination based upon the prospect that the claims in [the citizen suit] litigation may becom[e] moot because of the consent decree.” The court found plaintiff’s claims barred under the prior pending action doctrine, also known as the doctrine of abatement.
Addressing another of plaintiff’s arguments in opposing defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court said that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 does “not entitle a party to a day in court; it does not guarantee that a cause of action will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or lack of jurisdiction. Rather, . . ., Rule 24 is a procedural mechanism that allows a party to intervene in an action in which the party may have an interest.” The court allowed plaintiff to proceed with a claim that the proposed consent decree is vague.