The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut Inc. v. Three Feathers LLC
A court can order a defendant, who allegedly is responsible for conduct that results in significant environmental injury, to pay for remediation, to pay a civil fine of $200 per day and to pay attorneys' fees and expenses. Allegedly, the defendants placed debris, stone, dirt or gravel in a branch of the Saugatuck River, in an attempt to create a road crossing on property owned in part by the plaintiff, The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut Inc., and in part by the defendant, Seventh Cross. The plaintiff, which owns the Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil's Den Preserve in Weston, filed a complaint, alleging that the road crossing obstructs the river and causes ponding to the north and reduced flow to the south, and that the defendants removed vegetation, placed fill and expanded a road that is located within or that is adjacent to wetlands, without any permits from the municipal inland-wetlands agency. The plaintiff hired Charles Farnsworth to perform a survey, Michael Klevin to assess the wetlands and Laura Wildman to prepare a wetlands restoration plan. An attorney trial referee, George Scott, heard testimony and concluded that the defendants' conduct created a barrier for aquatic organisms, adversely affected water quality and resulted in significant environmental injury. Connecticut General Statutes §22a-44(b) provides, "Any person who commits, takes part in, or assists in any violation of any provision of sections 22a-36 to 22a-45, inclusive . . . shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars." The statute adds, "All costs, fees, and expenses in connection with such [Superior Court] action shall be assessed as damages against the violator together with reasonable attorney's fees which may be allowed." The court issued an injunction and ordered the defendants to cease and desist from cutting trees and vegetation and excavating or depositing materials. The court granted judgment to the plaintiff and ordered the defendant to pay $200 per day for the period between Aug. 15 and Sept. 18, 2009, to pay about $26,234 for remediation and to pay attorneys' fees and expenses.