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State v. Dubois Livestock, Inc.

Supreme Court of Maine

December 7, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
DUBOIS LIVESTOCK, INC., et al.

          Argued: October 13, 2017

          Alan E. Shepard, Esq. (orally), Shepard & Read, Kennebunk, for appellants Dubois Livestock, Inc., and the Randrick Trust

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Katherine E. Tierney, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Dubois Livestock, Inc., and the Randrick Trust appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court (York County, O'Neil, J.) granting the Department of Environmental Protections request for a permanent injunction prohibiting Dubois and the Trust from denying the Department access for solid waste inspections. Dubois and the Trust argue that (1) the court erred in concluding that 38 M.R.S. §§ 347-C and 1304(4-A) (2016) permit the Department to enter the property without consent or an administrative search warrant and (2) if the statutes do permit warrantless searches, the statutory scheme violates their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Dubois operates a composting business in Arundel on land owned by the Randrick Trust and surrounded by fields the Trust also owns. Dubois conducts its composting operation out in the open on large uncovered impervious pads, far from any buildings or residences. In 1999, the Department issued a solid waste order granting Dubois an "after-the-fact license" to receive 1, 733 tons of fish waste and 3, 467 tons of horse manure annually. See Dubois Livestock, Inc. v. Town of Arundel, 2014 ME 122, ¶ 2, 103A.3d 556. In 2012, Dubois requested and the Department granted a license amendment that allows Dubois to receive up to 29, 000 total tons of composting materials annually, consisting of 8, 000 tons of solid waste residuals, including fish and shellfish waste, and 21, 000 tons of additional material, such as horse manure, cow manure, horse bedding, and woodchips. See id. The license amendment represented a fivefold increase in the volume of composting material that Dubois could accept each year.

         [¶3] Pursuant to its license and the rules promulgated pursuant to the Maine Hazardous Waste, Septage and Solid Waste Management Act (Solid Waste Act), 38 M.R.S. §§ 1301 to 1319-Y (2016), Dubois is required to "prevent nuisance odors at occupied buildings." 2 C.M.R. 06 096 410-5 § (4)(E)(1) (2015).[1] During the spring of 2015, on at least one occasion, Dubois spread compost material on the Trusts surrounding fields. Soon after, the Department received multiple complaints about odors believed to be emanating from Duboiss premises and the Trusts fields. In response to these complaints, the Department sought access to Duboiss premises to conduct inspections and access to the Trusts fields to inspect and take samples of the material spread by Dubois. Dubois initially permitted the Department to enter the property, but after additional odor complaints and follow-up by the Department in the fall of 2015, representatives of Dubois and the Trust denied the Department access.

         [¶4] In response, on November 23, 2015, the Department filed a complaint against Dubois and the Trust in the Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the Department has the right, pursuant to 38 M.R.S. §§ 347-C and 1304(4-A), to enter Duboiss business premises and the surrounding fields to inspect and take samples, and seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Dubois and the Trust from denying the Department such access. See 38 M.R.S. § 348(1) (2016). The Department also sought a preliminary injunction to the same effect.

         [¶5] After a contested hearing, the court issued a declaratory judgment stating that the Department has statutory authority "to enter property to inspect and ensure compliance, " and that "[n]either consent nor an administrative warrant is required by the statutory scheme." The court granted the Department a permanent injunction prohibiting Dubois and the Trust from denying the Department such access during "reasonable hours, " and affirmed the constitutionality of the statutory scheme as applied to Dubois and the Trust. Dubois and the Trust appeal.

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶6] This case requires us to determine, for the first time, the parameters of the Departments right to enter and inspect property, pursuant to 38 M.R.S. §§ 347-C and 1304(4-A), to ensure compliance with the solid waste laws and the rules that the Department administers in enforcing those laws. Our standard for interpreting statutory provisions is well established:

In interpreting these provisions, we first look to the plain language of the provisions to determine their meaning. If the language is unambiguous, we interpret the provisions according to their unambiguous meaning unless the result is illogical or absurd. If the plain language of a statute is ambiguous-that is, susceptible of different meanings-we will then go on to consider ...

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