State common law tort claims based on air emissions from a power plant are not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The court agreed to dismiss certain federal law claims in a putative class action alleging property damage from coal combustion byproducts, but refused to dismiss state common law tort claims. See Little v. Louisville Gas and Electric, Co., No. 3:13-CV-01214-JHM (W.D. Ky. July 16, 2014).
A Louisville citizen and her neighbors filed the lawsuit against PPL Corporation and a subsidiary, the operators of a coal-fired power plant near the citizens’ homes. Because Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District had previously investigated the neighbors’ complaints and issued several Notices of Violation, the district court dismissed three of Plaintiffs’ four CAA claims. The court also granted PPL’s motion to dismiss all Resource Conservation and Recovery Act claims.
However, the court rejected Defendants’ argument that the nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims interfered with the regulation of air emissions under the CAA. Following a Sixth Circuit decision, the court found that the CAA’s savings clause indicated Congress’s intent to preserve state control. Accordingly, the court held that the CAA did not preempt state common law claims and denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss.