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VERMONT v. NEW YORK ET AL.

decided: June 3, 1974.

VERMONT
v.
NEW YORK ET AL.



ON BILL OF COMPLAINT.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 417 U.S. Page 270]

On April 24, 1972, after oral argument, we granted Vermont's motion to file a bill of complaint against New York and the International Paper Co. which alleged that as a result of discharge of wastes, largely from International's mills, that company and New York are responsible for a sludge bed in Lake Champlain and Ticonderoga Creek that has polluted the water, impeded navigation, and constituted a public nuisance. 406 U.S. 186. Issue was joined and the Honorable R. Ammi Cutter was appointed Special Master. 408 U.S. 917. Later the United States sought leave to intervene, stating it had numerous interests in these waters under federal statutes. We referred the motion to the Special Master, 409 U.S. 1103, who granted intervention. During the year 1973, 75 days of testimony were received, Vermont presenting

[ 417 U.S. Page 271]

     substantially all of its direct case. New York has put in about half of its direct case. Neither International nor the United States up to now has offered any evidence.

The Report of the Special Master dated April 24, 1974, states that he suggested that the parties might adjust their differences less expensively than by litigation. He reports that the United States succeeded in bringing about serious negotiations which resulted in a settlement that the Special Master commends to the Court for approval. The proposed settlement is represented by a Proposed Consent Decree and a stipulation that the Decree may be entered by the Court without further argument or hearing.

 The settlement "contemplates that no findings shall be made" and it provides that "it shall not constitute an adjudication on any issue of fact or law, or evidence, or any admission by any party with respect to any such issue." The Special Master reports, "In my opinion, no settlement would be possible if this report were to contain any findings." He adds that in his opinion "it reaches a reasonable result, consistent with the public interest, and acceptable on the basis of the evidence thus far presented."

By Art. I of the Decree a special South Lake Master*fn1 is to be appointed with all the usual powers of Special Masters named by us. He is to resolve matters of controversy between the parties after they have exhausted all administrative and other remedies (except judicial review). When he has decided the matter, he will file his recommendation with the Clerk of the Court. Unless any party "aggrieved" files exceptions with the Court within 30 days, it becomes a decision of the Court "unless

[ 417 U.S. Page 272]

     disapproved by the Court." Proposed Decree, Schedule 1, § 1.6. But nothing in Schedule 1 limits any regulatory or law enforcement authority "with lawful jurisdiction independently to carry out or enforce applicable law and regulations."

After nine years from our approval of the Decree, the South Lake Master on application for modification of it may submit his recommendations to the Court without prior exhaustion of administrative remedies before the federal and New York authorities or after such exhaustion, as he chooses.

The South Lake Master may order International to permit inspection of Old Mill*fn2 or New Mill*fn3 on showing of good cause. Schedule 1, § 1.7.

Schedule 2 of the Proposed Decree provides for grading and covering the bark pile near Old Mill and for lowering the water level in an adjacent pond to reduce the drainage of the bark pile into Ticonderoga or tributaries.

Schedule 3 prescribes methods of control of malodorous air emissions from New Mill; and Schedule 1, § 1.5 (b), provides that notwithstanding the provisions of Schedule 3, if, after November 1, 1975, objectionable odors attributable to New Mill are detected in Vermont "during a significant period of ...


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