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United States v. Smithfield Foods
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
191 F.3d 516 (1999)
Smithfield Foods (plaintiff) operated two swine processing plants in Virginia that dumped wastewater into the Pagan River. Smithfield had a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, but its effluent-pollution concentrations exceeded the permit’s limits. Smithfield decided to connect to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) system to control its effluent pollution. However, connection to the HRSD system took six years, and Smithfield made no effort to expedite the connection or to comply with NPDES effluent-pollution limits in the intervening years. The federal government sued under the Clean Water Act (CWA), seeking injunctive relief and penalties for effluent-limit violations and reporting failures. The district court found Smithfield liable for 6,982 days of violations and issued a detailed, factor-based decision supporting a $12.6 million penalty. Smithfield appealed, arguing the district court improperly calculated the penalty because it (1) trebled the amount of the calculated economic benefit rather than weighing the CWA factors; (2) improperly calculated the economic benefit and failed to credit Smithfield for costs expended preparing for the HRSD connection; and (3) failed to give Smithfield a good-faith credit for its decision to connect to HRSD.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ervin, J.)
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