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Sierra Club v. Tennessee Valley Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 29, 2012

SIERRA CLUB, Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, Defendant.

Page 357

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 358

Craig Holt Segall, Sierra Club, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Maria V. Gillen, Tricia Lynn Roelofs, Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, TN, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, Chief Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Now before the Court is plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 3. Upon consideration of this Motion, defendant's opposition, ECF No. 9, plaintiff's reply, ECF No. 14, and applicable law, this Court will DENY plaintiff's motion and, because it lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant, will TRANSFER the case to the Eastern District of Tennessee.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

Between April and June 2012, Sierra Club filed several FOIA requests with the Tennessee Valley Authority (" TVA" ) [2] seeking information regarding a Tennessee coal plant as well as other more general information. Compl. ¶¶ 30, 34-36, ECF No. 1; Pl.'s Mem. in Support of its Emergency Mot. For Prelim. Inj. at 11-12 (" Pl.'s Br." ) ECF No. 3-1; Def.'s Opp'n at 2, ECF No. 9. In October, the TVA issued a draft Environmental Assessment (" EA" ) regarding its plans for the plant. Compl. ¶ 31; Pl.'s Br. at 2, 13-14. The TVA announced a public comment period for the draft EA that was initially to be open until November 16 and was later extended until the present deadline of November 30. Compl. ¶¶ 43, 46. The Club quickly sought to expedite its still pending requests. Compl. ¶ 45; Pl.'s Br. at 3, 14; Def.'s Opp'n at 3. In early November, the Sierra Club received what TVA described as its " partial response." Compl. ¶ 47; Pl.'s Br. at 3, 15; Def.'s Opp'n at 3 (noting that TVA sent the CD on November 5). Not satisfied with the documents they had received, and with the public comment period's November 30 closing date looming, the Club filed this action on November 15 and on the same day moved for a preliminary injunction. See Compl.; Pl.'s Emergency Mot., ECF No. 3. The Club seeks an order forcing TVA to turn over all requested documents or, if necessary, to extend or re-open the comment period. Pl.'s Br. at 4, 17; Pl.'s Reply at 4.

III. ANALYSIS

A preliminary injunction is " an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief."

Page 359

Winter v. NRDC, 555 U.S. 7, 21, 129 S.Ct. 365, 172 L.Ed.2d 249 (2008). Here the Court will not decide whether Sierra Club meets this demanding standard because it concludes that it lacks personal jurisdiction over TVA.

Far from a " hyper-technical procedural argument," see Pl.'s Reply at 3, personal jurisdiction is " an essential element of the jurisdiction of a district court without which the court is powerless to proceed to an adjudication." See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 143 L.Ed.2d 760 (1999) (internal quotations and citations omitted). " [B]efore a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, there must be ... a basis for the defendant's amenability to service of summons. Absent consent, this means there must be authorization for service of summons on the defendant." Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., Ltd., 484 U.S. 97, 104, 108 S.Ct. 404, 98 L.Ed.2d 415 (1987). This requirement applies with no less force in the context of a motion for a preliminary injunction. See Khatib v. Alliance Bankshares Corp., 846 F.Supp.2d 18, 25 (D.D.C.2012); cf. Lipofsky v. N.Y. State Workers Comp. Bd., 861 F.2d 1257 (11th Cir.1988) (holding that a district court could not dismiss a case for lack of personal jurisdiction on its own motion without giving plaintiff notice or an opportunity to present its views on the issue).

The Sierra Club pursues two arguments for personal jurisdiction, pointing first to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(13) of FOIA, Compl. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Reply at 20-22, and second to TVA's contacts with and presence in the forum and its status as a federal agency. Id. at 22-23; see also Compl. ¶ 15 (arguing that this venue is appropriate because TVA ...


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