Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co. 206 U.S. 230 (1907)
The Tennessee Copper Co. had a smelting facility in
Ducktown, TN, that was sending noxious fumes over the border in the
Some Tennessee residents had sued to get an injunction
closing the other smelter in Ducktown, but lost in Madison v. Ducktown
Sulphur, Copper & Iron Co. (113 Tenn. 331, 83 S.W. 658 (1904))
The State of Georgia sued to force Tennessee to shut down
the smelter and stop poisoning Georgia residents.
The Madison case revolved around the concept of the private
nuisance, while this case revolved around the concept of the public
Madison argued that the pollution was hurting him
Georgia did not own a lot of public lands in the area,
so the State wasn't being hurt directly. They argued that, as a
sovereign, they had an interest in the land of all Georgia citizens.
After the original complaint, Tennessee put in bigger
smokestacks, but that just made the sulfur go further downwind and
affected more land.
"Dilution is not the solution to pollution!"
Since this was a 'dispute between the States' as defined
in the Constitution, the US Supreme Court had original jurisdiction to
hear the case directly.
The US Supreme Court issued an injunction and shut down
The Court found that the smelter was clearly causing
damage to land in Georgia.
No vegetation at all was alive downwind of the facility.
The Court found that granting monetary damages was not
appropriate for a public nuisance, because the State of Georgia
did not directly suffer economic harm, at least not in a way that could
There was no way to balance the interests of the smelter
vs. the interests of the landowner, as the Court had done in Madison.
Specific relief (aka an injunction) was the only thing
that could work.
After this decision, Tennessee Copper Co. came to an
agreement with Georgia, but the Ducktown Sulphur, Copper, and Iron Co.
defiantly kept polluting until Georgia successfully won an injunction
against them 6 years later.