October 26, 2020

Volume X, Number 300


October 26, 2020

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Iowa Supreme Court Rules Pollution Suit Not Preempted by Clean Air Act

Striking a blow to defendants seeking to limit the scope of toxic tort claims based on air emissions, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a putative class action filed by residents asserting tort claims against a corn milling facility was not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) or Iowa state law. The court also refused to dismiss the case based on the political question doctrine. See Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., No. 13-0723 (Iowa June 13, 2014). 

Eight residents of Muscatine, Iowa filed a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated Muscatine residents against Defendant Grain Processing Corporation (GPC). The Plaintiff residents alleged that the operations at Defendant’s corn milling facility caused harmful pollutants and noxious odors to invade their land, thereby diminishing the full use and enjoyment of their properties. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on preemption under the CAA and the states’ statutory equivalent to the CAA, and accepted Defendant’s argument that the issues raised by the residents amount to political questions that should not be resolved by courts.  

The Plaintiffs appealed, and the Supreme Court of Iowa reversed and remanded. The Court noted that the CAA does not expressly preempt the nuisance and common law actions at issue, and further found that there is no implied preemption in the CAA. The Court also found that the state environmental statutes and regulations did not preempt the plaintiffs’ claims, noting that enforcement of tort claims was not inconsistent with the state’s regulatory framework.  In addition, the Court rejected Defendant’s political question argument, finding that there was no “textual constitutional commitment” of the issues raised in this case to another branch of government.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 209



About this Author

Daniel B. Schulson Environmental & Administrative Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Daniel Schulson applies the insight and experience he gained from working in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clients’ challenges on a broad array of issues.

He assists clients with many aspects of environmental and administrative law, including compliance counseling, permitting, due diligence, audits, commenting on agency rulemakings, administrative enforcement defense, and litigation.

Examples of Dan’s experience include:

  • Providing counsel to the U.S. government-appointed Independent...
Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Mackenzie’s practice includes both litigation and regulatory matters arising under FIFRA, the Clean Water Act, and related environmental laws.

She is passionate about conserving air, water, wildlife, and land for future generations, and enjoys helping clients navigate and enforce the detailed framework of environmental law because she believes compliance is key to preventing adverse impacts to the environment.

Mackenzie is a co-chair of Beveridge & Diamond’s Industrial Hemp & Cannabis industry team. She advises clients, and regularly writes and presents, on federal and state environmental regulations impacting this thriving industry. 

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Mackenzie represents pesticide companies in data compensation arbitrations, focusing on defending the rights of data owners against follow-on registrants of pesticides. She has also worked extensively with task forces comprised of national and multinational companies of all sizes that operate as joint ventures or limited liability companies to generate data and other information to meet government requirements under FIFRA.

Among the wide range of issues under the Clean Water Act that Mackenzie has handled are assisting companies with responses to Clean Water Act Section 308 information requests and Clean Water Act Section 404 compensatory mitigation requirements.

Mackenzie also defends public utilities against toxic tort claims. She was part of the team that obtained a defense judgment after a three-week trial regarding claims alleging that the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings. The case, Cormier v. D.C. WASA, 2011 D.C. Super. Lexis 7, 84 A.3d 492 (2013), was successfully upheld on appeal.

Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

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