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California Communities Against Toxics v. Armorcast Products Company, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 9, 2015

California Communities Against Toxics
Armorcast Products Company, Inc.


PERCY ANDERSON, District Judge.


Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint filed by defendants Armorcast Products Company, Inc. ("Armorcast") and Ari Aleong (collectively "Defendants") (Docket No. 40). Defendants challenge the sufficiency of the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") filed by plaintiff California Communities Against Toxics ("Plaintiff"). Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the Court finds that this matter is appropriate for decision without oral argument. The hearing calendared for February 9, 2015, is vacated, and the matter taken off calendar.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 23, 2014. After Armorcast filed a Motion to Dismiss the original Complaint, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") as a matter of right. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). Armorcast moved to dismiss the FAC on numerous grands, including that Plaintiff lacked standing to pursue its claims. The Court granted Armorcast's Motion to Dismiss the FAC with leave to amend. Plaintiff subsequently filed its SAC. The SAC alleges claims pursuant to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act ("Clean Water Act"), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387, against Armorcast and Ari Aleong, Armorcast's Director of Technology. According to the SAC, storm water at Armorcast's facility in North Hollywood is channeled to a storm drain that discharges to Los Angeles County's municipal storm water sewer system and eventually flows into the Tujunga Wash and the Los Angeles River. Plaintiff alleges that this storm water contains levels of total suspended solids ("TSS"), oil and grease ("O&G"), and iron in excess of the benchmark levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and in violation of the Best Available Technology Economically Achievable ("BAT") and Best Conventional Pollutant Control Technology ("BCT") standards mandated by the General Storm Water Permit ("General Permit") issued by California under the authority granted to it by the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES"). The General Permit requires permittees such as Armorcast to implement Best Management Practices ("BMPs") that achieve BAT and BCT for particular categories of pollutants.

II. Legal Standard

Generally, plaintiffs in federal court are required to give only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). While the Federal Rules allow a court to dismiss a cause of action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " they also require all pleadings to be "construed so as to do justice." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), 8(e). The purpose of Rule 8(a)(2) is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). The Ninth Circuit is particularly hostile to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 248-49 (9th Cir. 1997) ("The Rule 8 standard contains a powerful presumption against rejecting pleadings for failure to state a claim.") (internal quotation omitted).

However, in Twombly, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that "a wholly conclusory statement of a claim would survive a motion to dismiss whenever the pleadings left open the possibility that a plaintiff might later establish some set of undisclosed facts to support recovery." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561, 127 S.Ct. at 1968 (internal quotation omitted). Instead, the Court adopted a "plausibility standard, " in which the complaint must "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged infraction]." Id. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. For a complaint to meet this standard, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004) ("[T]he pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action") (alteration in original)); Daniel v. County of Santa Barbara, 288 F.3d 375, 380 (9th Cir. 2002) ("All allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.'") (quoting Burgert v. Lokelani Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust, 200 F.3d 661, 663 (9th Cir. 2000)). "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 (internal quotations omitted). In construing the Twombly standard, the Supreme Court has advised that "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

III. Analysis

Armorcast's Motion to Dismiss asserts that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that it has standing to pursue its claims. Armorcast also contends that the SAC is deficient because it includes allegations that exceed the scope of the pre-litigation notice required by the Clean Water Act and seeks to impose liability based on the application of EPA benchmark levels that are not applicable to Armorcast.

A. Plaintiff's Associational Standing

Article III of the United States Constitution requires that a litigant have standing to invoke the power of a federal court. Because Article III's standing requirements limit subject matter jurisdiction, a plaintiff's standing to pursue a claim is properly challenged by a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss. See Chandler v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff, which is pursuing its claims based on the alleged injuries suffered by its members, must allege sufficient facts to satisfy the requirements for associational standing. Krottner v. Starbucks Corp., 628 F.3d 1139, 1141 (9th Cir. 2010) ("The party asserting federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these [standing] requirements at every stage of the litigation...."). Associational standing has three requirements:

[A]n association has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when: (a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members.

Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343, 97 S.Ct. 2434, 2441, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977). "Although the first two requirements are constitutional in nature, the third is prudential." Or. Advocacy Ctr. v. Mink, 322 F.3d 1101, 1109 (9th Cir. 2003). "Associational standing is reserved for organizations that express the[] collective views and protect the[] collective interests' of their members." Fleck & Assocs., Inc. v. Phoenix, 471 F.3d 1100, 1106 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hunt, 432 U.S. at 345, 97 S.Ct. at 2442). To satisfy the requirements for associational standing, the association's members must possess sufficient "indicia of membership-enough to satisfy the purposes that undergird the concept of associational standing: that the organization is sufficiently identified with and subject to the influence of those it seeks to represent as to have ...

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