The Third Circuit recently held that the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) does not preempt state common law actions against polluters. In Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, GenOn Power Midwest, L.P., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 17283 (3rd Cir. 2013) (“Bell”), a class of residents living near a coal-fired electrical facility alleged that contaminants were settling on their property. The class plaintiffs brought suit against GenOn Power Midwest (“GenOn”) under state law tort theories of nuisance, negligence, trespass and strict liability. The district court ruled that state law tort actions were preempted by the CAA because the claims would undermine the comprehensive regulatory scheme provided for by the statute.
The Third Circuit’s ruling means that plant operators must take both state and federal law into account when regulating emissions. Compliance with the CAA will not always negate an operator’s liability for state law claims.
I invite you to read more about this ruling in my recently published article.