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In an unpublished opinion issued last week, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court found that a local ordinance that declares as a nuisance “the escape into the open air . . . of smoke, fly ash, dust, fumes, vapors, mists, or gases as to cause injury, detriment or annoyance . . .” is neither preempted by the New Jersey Solid Waste Management Act (“SWMA”) nor unconstitutionally broad or vague.  The case, New Jersey v. Strategic Environmental Partners, LLC, No. A-4968-13T4, was decided on November 19, 2015 by Judges Messano and Simonelli. Read More »

Another opinion was issued yesterday in the Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Co. case, Dkt. No. A-0313-11T3 (N.J. App. Div., Nov. 17, 2015), a case which became famous earlier this year when the New Jersey Supreme Court held that there is no statute of limitations for private-party contribution claims under the New Jersey Spill Act. After the case was remanded following the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision, the Appellate Division had to address several issues that the parties had appealed, but were deemed moot when the Appellate Division previously dismissed the case on statute of limitations grounds.  Read More »

Yesterday in two parallel class action interlocutory appeals, the Sixth Circuit joined the Third Circuit in holding that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state common law tort claims related to air pollution.  The first case, Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., involved excess ethanol emissions from Johnny Walker and J&B brand whiskey distilleries located in Louisville, Kentucky that allegedly caused the growth of a specific type of mold on neighboring properties.  The proposed class of local property owners asserted claims for negligence, nuisance, trespass, and injunctive relief, relying on violations of a local ordinance that prohibited air pollution which caused “injury, detriment, nuisance, or annoyance to any considerable number of persons or to the public.”  The second case, Little v. Louisville Gas & Electric Co., involved dust and coal ash emissions from a coal-fired power plant which effected local residents, and which were the subject of multiple notices of violation issued to the power company.  The class action claims in Little included claims for violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as state common law claims for nuisance, trespass, negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence.  In both cases, United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky allowed the common law claims to survive defendants’ motions to dismiss, ruling that the common law claims were not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act.   Read More »

Last week, in the case of Maroz v. Arcelormittal Monessen LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140660 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 15, 2015), a judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania declined to dismiss a proposed class action in which residents living near ArcellorMittal’s coke plant in Monessen, Pennsylvania alleged that noxious odors and air particulates from the plant polluted their properties.  After allowing the residents to amend their original complaint, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab found that the residents adequately pled the state common law tort claims for private nuisance, negligence, and trespass, despite the judge’s acknowledgement that there was “not a large number of detailed facts” set forth in the amended complaint.   However, the Court did dismiss claims for public nuisance and punitive damages. Read More »

The New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division recently confirmed that the New Jersey Spill Act applies retroactively and abrogates the State of New Jersey’s sovereign immunity for contribution to contamination.  The case, NL Industries, Inc. v. State, Dkt. No. L-1296-14 (Law Div., Middlesex Cnty., August 27, 2014), affd. Dkt. No. A-0869-1413, (App. Div., Aug. 26, 2015), deals with the remediation of contamination related to the historic construction of a sea wall and jetty in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township.  The sea wall and jetty are part of the Raritan Bay Superfund site, which was placed on the National Priorities List in November 2009 after EPA detected elevated levels of lead and heavy metals in the soil, beach, sand, and sediments surrounding the Bay.  In January 2014, the EPA issued a unilateral administrative order to NL Industries, the manufacturer of lead and other heavy metal slags that were used to construct the sea wall, to clean up the contamination, which is anticipated to cost in excess of $75 million.   Read More »

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Harley-Davison Motor Co. v. Springettsbury Twp., Dkt. No J-102-2014 (Sept. 29, 2015), ruled that the presence of contamination, and the stigma that surrounds such contamination, are relevant to determining the property’s fair market value for tax assessment purposes.   Read More »

In the 2012 case of New Jersey Schs. Dev. Auth. v. Marcantuone, 428 N.J. Super. 546 (App.Div. 2012), the New Jersey Appellate Division held that a passive landowner who purchased contaminated property prior to the enactment of the New Jersey Spill and Compensation Act (“Spill Act”) was a liable party under the Act even if the owner did not contribute to the contamination, unless it could meet the Spill Act’s definition of an “innocent purchaser.”  This decision gave rise to an entirely new wave of litigation against landowners who, previously, were not thought to be PRPs under the Spill Act.  Last week, however, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey returned some hope to these property owners when it affirmed a Superior Court decision holding that, while a passive landlord is a  liable party under the Spill Act, application of the equitable principles of allocation may result in a finding that such a landlord is nevertheless 0% responsible  for the costs of remediation.   Read More »

This week, in the case of Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co., No. 14-2191 (8th Cir.  Sept. 15, 2015), the Eighth Circuit overturned a district court’s grant of a certification to a class comprised of property owners who alleged that the contamination of a neighboring property, and their fear of its spread, was a nuisance.  The Eighth Circuit held that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence that their own properties were contaminated and thus denied class certification based on the plaintiffs’ failure to demonstrate a common injury. Read More »

In New Jersey, a property owner affected by a release from an underground storage tank cannot succeed on a private nuisance or trespass action absent demonstration of the tank owner’s intentional, negligent or reckless conduct.  Moreover, neither the tank owner’s insurer’s agreement to remediate the affected property nor the migration of the leaked substance onto the affected property conveys the affected property owner third party beneficiary status such that the property owner can maintain a bad faith action against the insurance provider.  In Ross v. Lowitz, No. A-101-13 (N.J. Aug. 6, 2015), the New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued a decision narrowing the avenues to recovery of property owners affected by a release from a neighboring underground storage tank by clarifying these two rules. Read More »

An issue that insurers and industry have grappled with is whether a company can obtain environmental insurance coverage for costs to address violations of the Clean Air Act, when the costs at issue are aimed at curbing future air emissions, rather than remediating emissions that have already occurred.  Last week, one federal judge in Louisiana answered that question in the affirmative in La Gen Louisiana Gen. LLC, et al. v. Illinois Union Ins. Co., Dkt. No. 3:10-cv-00516 (M.D. La., Aug. 5, 2015).  Read More »