Summary Judgment on Statutory Interpretation in Declaratory Action
Facts: The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) issued a draft permit allowing a proposed rock quarry to discharge storm water and wastewater into nearby creek. TDEC ultimately issued a final permit to the quarry and property owners allegedly affected by the discharge filed both a permit appeal and declaratory order petition with the Water Quality Control Board. The Board dismissed the declaratory order petition and property owners then filed a petition for declaratory judgment in chancery court. The trial court found that property owners’ petition for declaratory order was ripe, property owners had exhausted their administrative remedies and property owners complied with Tenn. Code Ann. § 69-3-105(i). The trial court also issued a declaratory judgment on the construction of Tennessee Complied Rule and Regulation 1200-04-03-.06 in favor of property owners on summary judgment. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court’s rulings with regard to ripeness, exhaustion of administrative remedies and Tenn. Code Ann. § 69-3-105(i) but reversed the grant of summary judgment on the construction of Tennessee Complied Rule and Regulation 1200-04-03-.06 and remanded the matter for further proceedings.
Issue: Was the property owners’ petition for declaratory relief against the TDEC permit ripe and exhausted, and was 1200-04-03-.06 properly interpreted?
Review Granted: February 15, 2013
Prediction: David believes that the Court will likely affirm the ruling of the trial court in all respects and including the issuance of the declaratory judgment on the construction of Tennessee Complied Rule and Regulation 1200-04-03-.06 in favor of property owners on summary judgment since the interpretation of a statute is a question of law and questions of law are generally appropriate at the summary judgment stage.