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Ninth Circuit rules in favor of Inland Empire Waterkeeper in case against Corona Clay Company

Inland Empire Waterkeeper, an affiliate program of Orange County Coastkeeper, won a key victory on Sept. 20 in their ongoing lawsuit against Corona Clay Company for its discharge of pollutants into Temescal Creek, which flows into the Santa Ana River Basin.

Waterkeeper sued Corona Clay in 2018, alleging it illegally discharged pollutants into Temescal Creek and violated various pollution-prevention provisions of the permit it was operating under—all violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

In an earlier ruling from the federal Central District Court of California, District Judge David O. Carter granted Waterkeeper partial summary judgment on a number of its claims – meaning those claims would not go to trial – and assessed Corona Clay a $3.7 million fine. However, the jury sided with Corona Clay on the remaining claims, finding the company not liable for various other permit violations.

Both parties appealed the district court’s judgment. A three-member panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard the case and ruled 2-1 to vacate the district court’s judgment and the jury verdict, Circuit Judge Daniel P. Collins dissenting.

Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz held that, “Because the district court’s jury instructions required Coastkeeper to prove elements not required […] we vacate the jury verdict.”

In addition, the majority affirmed Waterkeeper’s legal standing – its ability to bring the case in the first place – landing a victory for citizen plaintiffs across the nation and well in line with Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent.

Corona Clay still has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court or a full panel of the Ninth Circuit. Barring an appeal, the case will return to the Central District for reevaluation in line with the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

The Clean Water Act regulates discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States. Although the United States Environmental Protection Agency or a state environmental agency can go after violators of the Clean Water Act, it also allows citizens affected by a polluter’s discharges to sue violators. Coastkeeper brought the lawsuit on behalf of citizens harmed by Corona Clay Company’s pollution near the Santa Ana River Basin.

“Coastkeeper and Waterkeeper are elated that the Ninth Circuit affirmed our standing and vacated the jury verdict finding in favor of Defendant, as the jury instruction constituted prejudicial error and was the basis of our appeal.” said Sarah Spinuzzi, Orange County Coastkeeper’s senior staff attorney. “We are confident that we will prevail on all claims on remand, and the previously stayed civil penalties and injunctive relief will be reinstated.”

“Citizen enforcement of the Clean Water Act is critical to ensuring our waterways are protected from industrial stormwater runoff,” said Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper’s president and founder. “Industrial polluters like Corona Clay Company have a duty to keep their pollution out of our communities and ecosystems, and Waterkeeper will ensure that those obligations are upheld.”

This article was released by Inland Empire Waterkeeper.

11 Comments

  1. If anyone here actually wants to help the planet go check out the Surfrider Foundation. Donate to someone who will actually help the planet with your money https://shop.surfrider.org/

  2. Glad I found this article! I can finally have the chance to say HOW TERRIBLE THIS ORANIZATION IS! I live in Riverside and the riverbed is behind my house, I have been calling them to schedule a clean up because my husband and son went to look for frogs and ended up finding 23 used needles all lined up neatly in the sand with the tips sticking up! Needless to say this is not all we have found. The water is disgusting and dead animals have been washing up everywhere. My dog drank the water and we had to take him to the vet. I have been trying to reach this institution but have not heard anything back. I am letting everyone in the Riverside community know how lackluster you are.

  3. I’m here for the comments! Damn this organization sounds like dirt ahaha

  4. Suing minority companies??? Sounds like RACIST put down to me. CANCELED!

  5. I saw a yelp review of you guys and I couldn’t have said it any better myself “Capitalistic Coast keepers.” Are we not in a time where supporting each other and helping one another’s business in a necessity!? Why tear down a minority business when there is so much more to be done at our beaches and river beds? I found this post on WE ARE TEMESCAL VALLEY Facebook group page and thank God I did. Lets waste tax payers money on lawsuits instead of the filth that is polluting our planet! YOU ARE SICK

  6. It’s called “environmental ambulance chasing” and it is horrible. I cannot believe the court said Water Keeper has standing. They have not been harmed in any way and should not have standing. The Dept of Justice has looked into environmental ambulance chasers, but has done nothing so far. Hopefully the DOJ will do something to protect small businesses from predatory lawyers out to make a quick buck. https://www.forbes.com/sites/wlf/2018/06/26/environmental-ambulance-chasing-doj-urges-court-to-scrutinize-clean-water-citizen-suit-settlements/?sh=1514bdab30c9

  7. I heard about this post from Gerald’s granddaughter and I AM SO GLAD I DID!!! This is another case about the white man suing the minority! If we don’t help each other during times like our state will keep falling apart and local man and his family will lose all rights! Support this company and bring justice to Corona Clay!

  8. I went to Cal State Fullerton and I know the Deleos. You were supposed to be for the community! How could you do this to a small business that is trying to survive during COVID especially when they did nothing wrong!

  9. This family has done more for the people in this community than this sad excuse for an organization has done in the last 10 years! HAS ANYONE SEEN THE FILTH FLOATING DOWN THE SANTA ANA RIVER LATELY?! The homeless living in camps fishing in that water?! Go sue them! You money hungry thieves! You are what is wrong with this state!

  10. I know Gerald and the the entire Deleo family. They donated an entire fields worth of material to my sons little league! This business has been around for a long time and for someone to sue someone that has done so much for the community is just sick!

  11. A white man with many white lawyers is taking from a brown man! This power-hungry group of individuals is suing this man for native uncontaminated soils crossing his property line when it rains. That land is walking distance from where his mother was born in a teepee! Shame on the Inland Empire Water Keeper!

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