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Suit against GPC dismissed


MUSCATINE, Iowa — A district court judge handed Grain Processing Corp. a victory Monday by dismissing a pending class action lawsuit that sought economic damages for residents living within a three-mile radius of the company’s Southend plant.


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mike.ferguson@muscatinejournal.com Related Documents Judge's decision MUSCATINE, Iowa — A district court judge handed Grain Processing Corpa victory Monday by dismissing a pending class action lawsuit that sought economic damages for residents living within a three-mile radius of the company’s Southend plant. Citing U.SSupreme Court precedent, Mark JSmith, district court judge for Iowa’s Seventh Judicial Circuit, ruled that the U.SEnvironmental Protection Agency “is better equipped to make decisions (over whether GPC’s emissions are reasonable) than district court judges or juries.” Iowa City attorney James CLarew, who represented the 11 plaintiffs, said in a statement, “We expect to appeal the court’s decision.” Smith’s ruling, which was dated Wednesday, March 27, means that no individual lawsuits remain to be litigated, according to GPC spokeswoman Janet Sichterman. A group of 11 residents sued Muscatine-based GPC in April 2012, claiming their real estate and personal property have been directly affected by the industrial methods and processes used by GPCThe lawsuit also claimed GPC uses outdated technologies that are ineffective in reducing air pollution levels.   Smith included in his ruling a description from an expert hired by the plaintiffsThe expert labeled the company’s compliance with air-quality standards “poor” because GPC hadn’t invested in modern pollution controls, failed to control spills and leaks, bypassed pollution controls and discharged toxic chemicals uncontrolled into the atmosphere. “If half the expert’s findings are true, there has been blatant disregard for the environment and the community of Muscatine,” Smith wrote in his decision“The report also indicates that the above deficiencies have gotten worse in 2012, which is after the civil action was filed by the (Iowa Department of Natural Resources).” But questions about what harm a company may have done require a balancing act, the judge noted. “When an individual’s rights to seek damages for economic or physical harm conflict with the economic well-being of a large local employer,” Smith wrote, “those rights must be carefully weighed and reconciled through political compromises achieved by the legislative and rule-making processes.” Determinations about “the complex environmental issues involved in this case” would require a court to “make policy determinations concerning GPC’s costs and benefits to the surrounding community of Muscatine,” Smith wrote“The Court finds that these decisions have been entrusted by Congress to the EPA and that they are not properly reviewed in district court.” In a statement, Sichterman said that the company’s $100 million investment to improve emissions and nearly eliminate smoke, odor and haze at the plant are still on schedule to be operational in the spring of 2015. “GPC is pleased to see the judge recognize that regulation of air emissions is not the responsibility of the courts,” Sichterman wrote“We recognize that everyone has the right to express his or her opinion and we respect thatHowever, as the Court found, the EPA and the DNR are the appropriate agencies that address regulatory concerns.” As for those who've been working to improve the area's air quality, they say they'll continue do their part to make sure environmental rules and regulations are upheld. "The Court's decision in the class action lawsuit strengthens our resolve that citizens must be able to have access to our judicial system to address harms caused to the public by air polluters, said Sandy Stanley, board president of Clean Air Muscatine. "CLAM's goal, as intervenor in the lawsuit filed by the Attorney General, is to assure that our environmental laws are fully obeyed and that those who have chosen not to follow the law will pay sufficient penalties to deter such behavior in the future." if( showSurvey ) { try { _402_Show(); } catch(e){} } .t402-inline-block, .t402-prompt-iframe-container { z-index: 99!important; float:left!important; width:375px!important; }

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