SAN FRANCISCO—U.S. District Judge William Orrick III ruled on November 20, that PG&E may face a lawsuit over an incident that occurred back in 1920.
The lawsuit indicates that back in the 1920s, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and PG&E Corporation left behind “hazardous waste created by its manufactured gas plants along the northern waterfront of San Francisco.”
Dan Clarke, a former San Francisco resident, wanted to force PG&E to investigate why the currently abandoned Cannery plant contaminated the surrounding areas and clean up issues that he alleges PG&E caused. The judge ruled partly in favor of Clarke and the defendant, PG&E.
In the complaint, Clarke said that his claims are based on, “The operation and demolition of the Cannery Manufactured Gas Plants . . . [and] the creation and refinement of gas from coal and oil and disposal of wastes created thereby . . . constitutes an ultrahazardous activity.”
Judge Orrick wrote in the opinion, he agreed with PG&E concerning this claim because, “The case law cited by PG&E, which Clarke does not convincingly refute, suggests that the activity was entirely commonplace and cannot constitute an ultrahazardous activity.”
Clarke tried to use the Clean Water Act against PG&E, but the judge dismissed this claim because Clarke did not prove there was a direct violation of the Clean Water Act that happened within the past 5 years, which is what the statute of limitations requires. But the Judge did say in the opinion that “I find that Clarke has adequately alleged an ongoing discharge that does not seek retroactive application of the [Clean Water Act].”
Judge Orrick granted some of Clarke’s claims, like his claims of “lack of redressability,” which means the court could offer a remedy for sustained injuries. But the judge believes that Clarke’s claims is “premature at this stage.”
In the judge’s conclusion, he said that if “Clarke can in good faith allege facts that fix these deficiencies, he has leave to amend within twenty days of this Order.” If Clarke can prove that all his allegations against PG&E is true, within 20 days, the judge will change his ruling.
PG&E released a statement to the press saying they are committed to repairing the damages done “resulting from our historic operations and those of our predecessor companies dating as far back as the mid to late-1800s.”