Sample Paper on Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy “549 U.S. 561

Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy “549 U.S. 561


Since the beginning of 1980s, most governments around the world as well as their citizens have become sensitive to environmental pollution. Every state in the world has governing laws that seek to control environmental pollution. Some countries have strict laws that must be followed to help combat and reduce the release of toxic waste into the surrounding. Most of these pollutants usually come from industrial emissions. Some of the laws in place seek to state the standards amount of industrial waste that every manufacturing plane should emit per year. The calculation is made in terms of kilograms and it is expected that all the concerned organizations to conform and adhere to these laws.

Despite the availability of rules and regulations to be followed by industries and manufacturing plants in helping to manage environmental pollution, many cases have appeared before different judges concerning the disregard for such laws by the firms. In this light, this article aims at analyzing the case between Environmental Defense and Duke Energy plant concerning lack of adherence to the same rules by the company.


Duke Energy is a firm that deals in the production of coal-fired electricity. This company however found itself on the wrong side of the law when it was accused of not obeying air pollution laws proposed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research shows that this company was making some modification in one of its coal powered electricity plants (Jennings, 2010). The organization was making these modification based on EPA’s early laws without recognizing the amended act. Authorities from the environmental agency decided to sue the firm for making modifications to the firm but failed to comply with the rules of New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and those of Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD).

These two laws were added to the Clean Air Act of 1970 by Congress and aims at ensuring quality of air by regulating the amount of carbon emitted by energy manufacturing plants (Justicia, 2007). They gave new definition of modification of any plant in order to help monitor factor such as air emission that would contaminate the environment in 1980. The laws especially that of New Source Performance Standards also talked about amount of hourly rate.

In this case, Duke Energy was modifying or changing a part of its plant and not the entire firm. Second, the firm was not going to emit new substance apart from the daily carbon emissions from the factory. Hence, the conflict between the two parties was that the firm was making changes without seeking a permit as is stipulated in the Prevention of Significant Deterioration laws. Duke on the other hand was for the opinion that the change was not for the entire organization, and neither was it physical nor would it lead to emission of other forms of air pollutants (Frey, 2010) .

The second conflict came from the fact that the two laws did not have similar distinct definition of modification. Thus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations construe modification in one form in NSPS but in a different way for PSD. NSPS demands that any firm should employ the use of a better available technology in reducing pollution whereas, PSD regulations of 1980 states that a firm should get a permit for modification is the change is a major type (Justicia, 2007).

The legal partnership between the Federal Government and Environmental Defense is an effective strategy that helps in minimizing many negative influences not just in the environment but in other areas that affects human lives. Any environmental defense agency cannot come up with laws and regulation to be used by citizens without having them approved by the federal government (Jennings, 2010). This is because the federal authorities form a major arm of the judiciary and those involved in making laws.

They also work hand in hand with other agencies to ensure that the rules are followed to the letter, therefore, the environmental defense is termed week without strong support from the government. Secondly, the environmental agency is also under the laws of the state, despite the fact that it is charged with a bigger mandate of helping to oversee environmental issues. As such, it needs to understand how to operate and go about prosecution issues by getting into a partnership with the federal government.

Based on the contradictory definition of modification in NSPS and PSD provisions, there is not significant evidence that Duke Energy violated Clean Air Act (Frey, 2010). In fact, the case states that the Supreme Court ordered EPAs to come up with a distinct definition of modification that can be used for both laws. Second, since the firm was not making any major changes, and probably had the best technology for limiting air pollution, the plaintiff should realize that the defendant which is Duke Energy was following rules set by the same agency in 1970 (Justicia, 2007). As such, they did not need to get a permit to make the changes as long as they had the best method of reducing air contamination as they have always done. It is also vital to note that the firm had full knowledge of the fact that the two bodies of law did not have a reasonable means of calculating the amount of pollutant emitted by the firm.

The moral values or ethics of this case lies on the basis of the need to protect the environment from pollution by gases such as carbon and other polluting materials emitted by industries (Gratton, 2014). The environmental protection agency aimed at instilling the need for taking full responsibility of protecting the environment in both individuals and companies. It also wanted to inform individuals that such laws are in place and are functional all the time to both organizations and citizens. By the enforcement and adherence to this law, the federal government together with the environmental agency hoped to achieve ability to live in an environment that has clean air.

This case should have potential means of solving it outside the court systems (Gratton, 2014). For example, the environmental protection agency and the federal government should come up with provisions in which the agency is allowed to punish firms and individuals who do not abide by the rules for the first time. They should also make it possible for first time offenders to be warned on two occasions and be prosecuted for the subsequent mistakes. There need to be other small organs of the law who aim at educating the public about environment protection. This body should also be able to impose minor judgments upon the offenders without having to go to court (Legal Information Institute (LII), 2014).

The current need to protect the environment is an issue that is observed the world over. There entire globe is now carrying out campaigns on how to go green. The campaigns include going green, movement to combat excess carbon emission and protect the ozone layer, campaigns to plant more trees and help overcome global warming. These campaigns go on in all countries of the world. Therefore, this case will further shed the light of how important protecting the environment is (LII). It also communicates strongly to people to aim at living in an environment that has clean air.

It further educates people on obeying environmental laws and what they need to know, as contributing factors to environmental contamination (Gratton, 2014). The case will also instill the knowledge that there are many companies that emit toxic carbon wastes into the air thereby polluting it. Hence, people should be on the lookout for such culprits and report them to the concerned authorities.


There are laws that govern operations of various businesses. It is therefore expected that each organization adhere to them. The government or Congress together with other protection agencies should come with distinct definitions of all the amended laws. They should also aim at helping organizations to understand them fully to avoid conflict that might arise due to lack of knowledge or failure of understanding. People and organizational owners should be aware of changes in the environment as well as the need to protect it from contamination and eventually take an active role in achieving this.



Frey, S. (2010). Environmental Law: Examples & Explanations. Aspen Publishers

Jennings, M. (2010). Business: Its Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment. Belmont, CA: Cengage

Justicia, (2014). Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy “549 U.S. 561. Retrieved from

Legal Information Institute (LII). (2014). ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE v. DUKE ENERGY CORP. (No. 05-848). Retrieved from

Gratton, S. (2014). Standing between the divide: the relationship between the administrative law and the charter post – multani. Retrieved from