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Week in Review: Protecting Clean Air, Enforcing the Governor’s Executive Orders & Continuing Efforts to Halt Courthouse-Arrests by ICE

June 2, 2020

Actions taken by AG Donovan during the week of May 25 – May 29

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

The Attorney General’s Office was proud to continue Vermont’s tradition of protecting the environment last week as the state celebrated the 50th anniversary of Green Up Day on Saturday, May 30. Earlier in the week, Attorney General T.J. Donovan joined a lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s attempt to roll back clean air protections and the Office received a favorable decision in the State’s lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers. Other activities included continuing efforts to halt ICE arrests in and around courthouses without warrants or court orders, and enforcing the Governor’s executive orders and addendums.

Holding PFAS manufacturers accountable

On Thursday, May 28, the Chittenden Superior Court ruled in the State’s favor when it denied motions filed by chemical manufacturers, including DuPont and 3M, to throw out Attorney General Donovan’s lawsuit against them for contaminating Vermont’s natural resources. The Court, with Judge Helen Toor presiding, ruled that the State’s case could proceed on nearly all grounds, including products liability, negligence, groundwater protection, and public nuisance. The Court dismissed only two claims, including one relating to trespass on non-State lands. The Court held that the public trust doctrine and a related “parens patriae” doctrine give the State the right to assert the other claims in the case. The Court also denied the companies’ attempt to stay consideration of the State’s fraudulent transfer claim relating to DuPont’s corporate spinoff of the Chemours Company. Thursday’s decision is the latest development in the State’s lawsuits against 3M and DuPont for the manufacturing and distribution of PFAS chemicals and PFAS-containing products in Vermont. The State’s other case, related to aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), is proceeding in multi-district litigation in federal court in South Carolina.

Enforcing the Governor’s executive order and addendums

On Thursday, May 28, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) notified the Rutland Superior Court that it was withdrawing its motion for preliminary injunction, filed on May 15, 2020, against Rutland gym Club Fitness of Vermont and its owner, Sean Manovill. In the interests of conserving Court and party resources, the AGO withdrew its motion for preliminary injunction ahead of Governor Scott’s Executive Order 01-20, Addendum 16, which allows for the re-opening of gyms and fitness center. At the AGO and Defendants’ joint request, the Court converted the hearing on the motion, scheduled for May 29, 2020, into a status conference. The Court has scheduled the next status conference for Wednesday, June 3, 2020. The State’s underlying Complaint remains.

Suing to stop the Trump Administration’s rollback of clean air protections

On Wednesday, May 27, Attorney General Donovan joined a multistate coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s final rule rolling back the national Clean Car Standards. The previous standards required appropriate and feasible improvements in fuel economy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. Since their introduction in 2010, these standards have saved consumers money, reduced harmful emissions, and helped protect the health of our communities. The Trump Administration’s misguided Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule stops this progress in its tracks, hurting the economy and public health at a time when the country can least afford it. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the final rule unlawfully violates the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Continuing efforts to halt ICE arrests in and around courthouses without warrants

On Tuesday, May 26, Attorney General Donovan announced he joined a coalition of attorneys general in continuing efforts to halt federal immigration arrests of noncitizens in and around state courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order. In the amicus brief, filed in support of the plaintiffs in Ryan, et al. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al., the coalition urges the court to uphold a Massachusetts district court’s preliminary injunction that effectively halted these arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).