Cattle Rancher Loses Enforcement Appeal Over Water Quality Violations

Published Jan 31, 2014

In a case illustrating some of the challenges and risks of summary judgment practice before the Pollution Control Hearings Board, in August 2013 the Washington Supreme Court ended a lengthy dispute between the State Department of Ecology and Joseph Lemire, a cattle rancher in Columbia County.  In an article published in the September 2013 issue of Western Water Law & Policy Reporter, Tupper Mack Wells attorney Sarah Mack discusses the decision in Lemire v. Ecology, 178 Wn.2d 227, 309 P.3d 395 (2013).

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the PCHB that Mr. Lemire had failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether allowing his cattle access to a stream created a substantial potential for violation of state water quality laws.  Mr. Lemire’s inability to obtain his “day in court” to challenge Ecology’s enforcement order highlights Ecology’s and the PCHB’s inclination toward more frequent use of summary judgment motions to dispose of appeals.  A litigant before the PCHB must present factual assertions in the proper context and focus carefully on the standard of review in order to preserve the opportunity for a hearing on the merits.

  • To read the article, click here.