Tuesday, October 16, 2012

[12] Attorney Hal Wright Submits Legal Brief to Federal Judge Thomas W. Thrash

Links: - Legal Brief, submitted to Judge Thomas Thrash by Hal Wright
- Exhibit "A", Supplemental document referred to in Wright's Legal Brief

When approving consent decrees or amendments to consent decrees, Courts must assure that they are lawful. Excerpt from Hal Wright's brief:

"It is argued below, with all due respect to this Court, that because the UIC program is a key component of protecting the public health, welfare and environment under[Georgia law], that the City's non-compliance with the UIC program is not only relevant, but serves as a legitimate basis for this Court to declare that the amendments and the consent decree are unreasonable, not legal, and not consistent with the mandate of [Georgia law]."
On September 20, 2012, Judge Thrash held a hearing for the final motion to extend the completion deadline for Atlanta's First Amended Consent Decree (FACD) an additional 13 years.  After allowing the attorneys for the Plaintiffs (EPA and Georgia EPD) and the attorneys for the Defendant (Atlanta) to make presentations, Judge Thrash allowed citizens to make comments.

Attorney Hal Wright arose and requested that he be allowed to submit a legal brief on behalf of his clients, NOCRAP, the South River Watershed Alliance, and the Little Mountain Watershed Alliance.  Judge Thrash granted Wright's request which was immediately followed by a similar request from William A. Weinischke, US Department of Justice (representing EPA). Judge Thrash also granted Weinischke's request.
Wright's legal brief includes:

   Section I - A summary of more than eleven years of citizen-efforts to have the Plaintiffs  implement established Underground Injection Control (UIC) law in regard to protecting  public health by requiring permits for injecting sewage into aquifers (underground sources of drinking water).  The summary also cites the Plaintiff's failures to address the legalities when responding to a variety of communications from the citizens.

  Section II - An explanation of both federal Safe Drinking Water Act law/regulations and Georgia's Water Quality Control Act.

  Section III - Background information about the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision from 1997 which affirms the intent of Congress, “Thus, it is clear that Congress dictated that all underground injection be regulated under the UIC programs” as well as critiques of the Plaintiffs erroneous interpretations of the intent of Congress, federal regulations, and the 11th Circuit's decision.

  Section IV - Addresses the legacy of Atlanta's consent decree and the exposure to future financial burden.

   Wright concludes with a Request for Action from the Court,
"Commenters respectfully request this Court to declare the rules and regulations implementing Georgia's  Underground Injection Control program, Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 391-3-6-.13, are applicable to the City of Atlanta's activities of  emplacing wastewater through a shaft (“injection well”) into subsurface excavated tunnels and caverns (cavities)."

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