Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alves
For claims under Connecticut General Statutes §22a-16, the plaintiff was required to prove that the conduct of the defendants, alone or in combination with others, very likely caused not merely a de minimis pollution, impairment or destruction of a natural resource, but an unreasonable one. The Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC, filed a complaint alleging that Antonio Alves and the New London Development Corporation, acting pursuant to its redevelopment plan of Fort Trumbull for the defendant city of New London, violated C.G.S. §22a-16 by the destruction and demolition of Fort Trumbull properties and violated C.G.S. §22a-220 in various ways including by failing to meet recycling and source reduction goals. Following an evidentiary hearing, the court found that the plaintiff failed to prove its case on both counts. The plaintiff appealed from the judgment claiming, first, that the court's adverse findings of fact on the first count were clearly erroneous because the court failed to consider all relevant evidence and improperly required the plaintiff to present persuasive expert evidence. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. No record evidence supported the claim that the trial court faulted the plaintiff for failing to present more expert testimony or required any expert testimony. The court simply found that the evidence presented was unpersuasive. The legal standard of proof for claims under C.G.S. §22a-16, cited above, to which the court held the plaintiff was reaffirmed in the 2012 Appellate Court case of Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. New London. The trial court reasonably found that the plaintiff failed to satisfy that demanding standard. For the second count, the plaintiff contended that the city's failure to comply with certain mandates of C.G.S. §22a-220 automatically established a violation of C.G.S. §22a-16, relying on a Supreme Court statement in the 2003 case of Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alves. The Court clarified the statement in the 2008 case, Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. New London. The trial court properly concluded, as a matter of law, that reporting requirements in C.G.S. §22a-220(h) imposed only "technical or procedural requirements" and, as the Supreme Court clarified, a violation of such requirements could not support a finding of unreasonable pollution. Allegations that demolition practices violated C.G.S. §22a-220(f) by failing to meet recycling goals failed as the relevant statutory definition of "municipal solid waste" excludes "demolition debris."