In a bizarre presentation last night, attorneys for the defendants in the Woodriver case painted their clients as innocent victims. As a civil trial, all the defendants need is a majority of the jury. Scapegoating the state and manufacturer of the boilers may be all they need to get off if the case goes to trial. The trial is scheduled to begin September 16.
According to an attorney for Andrew and Gloria Straughn, the defendants in the Woodriver case:
“Even if the Straughns have some fault in this, other people including the manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer knowing these products, they share fault,” he said. “Where is the state of Alaska in defending the people from snake oil salesmen who are coming up here and selling them defective products.” Attorney says manufacturer, retailer share blame for wood boiler pollution 6/26/2013 FDNM
When asked, the attorneys wouldn’t answer who paid their fees. Likely it is Central Boiler, the manufacturer of the hydronic heaters. According to NESCAUM, Central Boiler has paid attorneys and given cash settlements to seal court records in other cases involving Central Boiler wood-burning boilers.
It is inappropriate for the Air Pollution Control Commission to enable a cowardly legal defense strategy designed to let Fairbanks’ most notorious smoke polluter off the hook.
Residents submitted a letter requesting the presentation be removed from the agenda. Commissioners ignored the request:
Here is the news release on the letter:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Citizens Request Commissioners Remove Presentation by
Attorney for Defendants in Woodriver Case from their Agenda
Fairbanks, Alaska – June 25, 2013 – 43 citizens and organizations submitted a letter to a local air pollution commission requesting them to remove a presentation from their agenda. An attorney for the defendants in a highly publicized public nuisance air pollution case, often called the Woodriver case, is scheduled to give a presentation at the meeting later today.
According to the letter, the 15-minute presentation from Michael Walleri violates the powers and duties of the Air Pollution Control Commission.
The signers stated that there is no interest served by Mr. Walleri’s report other than to influence the outcome of the upcoming trial and bias the jury pool demanded by his clients.
It is the right of any citizen to speak for 3 minutes during Citizen Comments, but it is inappropriate to give special treatment and a platform to individuals established to have caused public nuisance air pollution, stated the signers in the letter. Link to 6/25/2013 APCC agenda.
In addition, the letter stated, the APCC should responsibly and “fully investigate nuisances, health hazards and other harmful effects” that led up to the Woodriver case, but that Mr. Walleri’s presentation does not constitute an “investigation” per FNSB Chapter 2.48.120.
Bethany Russell, who signed the letter, gave this statement:
“As a person raising a family in the Fairbanks-North Pole area, I am dismayed at our local government’s lack of concern for our air quality and our health. Children need to be able to breathe clean air in our schools and community.”
A copy of the letter was submitted to members of the Commission, Mayor Luke Hopkins, FNSB Transportation Director Glenn Miller, and FNSB Air Quality Specialist Dr. Jim Conner. Link to letter: 43 People Request APCC to Remove Attorney for Defendants in Woodriver Case from Agenda
Alaska v. Straughn was filed by the state of Alaska in Superior Court January 3, 2013 and is scheduled for trial September 16, 2013 at 8:00 am. A “Demand For Jury Trial” has been submitted on behalf of the Straughns. Case number 4FA-13-01205CI CourtView.
February 4, 2013, Judge Robert Downes ruled “the operation of the defendants’ outdoor wood boilers has proven to be a public nuisance.” Link to order by Judge Downes.
One of the attorneys representing the defendants in the case is Michael Walleri.
Andrew and Gloria Straughn have two outdoor wood boilers across the street from Woodriver Elementary School in Fairbanks. This is the state’s first public nuisance case against an owner of a hydronic heater, also called an outdoor wood boiler.
Agencies have received hundreds of complaints against the smoke from the Straughns’ burners. Link to 20 affidavits and other court documents.
Reporters may wish to ask Mr. Walleri how many doses of Albuterol he took after visiting Woodriver Elementary in 2011 and who pays his fees.