NANCY BURTON v. COMMISSIONER OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION et al., SC 19664

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Environmental Protection; Whether Court Properly Determined that Action Claiming that Administrative Proceeding was Inadequate to Protect Rights Under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act was Rendered Moot by the Conclusion of the Administrative Proceeding. The plaintiff brought this action under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (act) against the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., the owner and operator of Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford.  The plaintiff claimed that an administrative proceeding concerning renewal of Dominion's permit to discharge wastewater into Long Island Sound was inadequate to protect the rights recognized by the act as contemplated by General Statutes § 22a-20.  The trial court dismissed the action, ruling that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring it.  In Burton v. Commissioner of Environmental Protection, 291 Conn. 789 (2009), the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings in the trial court.  Prior to any proceedings on remand, the administrative proceeding concerning the wastewater permit concluded, Dominion was issued a new wastewater permit, and the plaintiff brought an administrative appeal to challenge the agency’s final decision to renew the permit.  In light of those developments, the trial court dismissed this action as moot, ruling that, as the wastewater permit proceeding had concluded, it could no longer afford the plaintiff any practical relief concerning that administrative proceeding.  The trial court found that the plaintiff could press her claims that the administrative proceeding had not been fair and impartial in her appeal taken from the final decision of the agency.  The plaintiff appeals, claiming that the trial court defied the Supreme Court’s remand order in failing to conduct a hearing to determine whether the wastewater permit proceeding adequately protected rights recognized by the act.  The plaintiff also contends that the trial court wrongly dismissed this action as moot in light of the conclusion of the  permit proceeding.  She argues that this action—and not her appeal from the agency’s final determination—is the proper vehicle for advancing claims that the permit proceeding was inadequate to protect rights under the act and that, should the trial court find that the proceeding was inadequate to safeguard those rights, it could afford the plaintiff practical relief by invalidating the agency’s decision to issue Dominion a new wastewater discharge permit.