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Landowners who find themselves in the path of an oil or gas pipeline quickly learn that their rights are limited, and that a pipeline company granted a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity hold most of the cards.  Thus, the recent decision in Alliance Pipeline, L.P. v. 4,360 Acres of Land, No. 13-1003 (8th Cir. Mar. 24, 2014), which in a mere 10 pages washed aside the landowners challenges Alliance Pipeline’s condemnation action, comes as no surprise.    Read More »

This summer, we reported on the Third Circuit’s decision in the Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station case, which held that the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) does not preempt state common law tort claims in a putative class action filed by over 1,500 residents complaining that the operations of GenOn Power Midwest, L.P.’s (“GenOn’s) coal-fired electric generation station constituted a nuisance under Pennsylvania common law.  Read More »

Since the United States Supreme Court decided Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2451 (2011), plaintiffs in contamination cases have struggled to meet the raised bar for class certification.  And that bar was certainly not lowered by the Seventh Circuit in its decision in Parko v. Shell Oil Co., Nos. 13-8023 & 13-8024 (7th Cir. Jan 17, 2014).  Parko involved a putative class comprised of property owners in the town of Roxana, Illinois, who claimed that their property values had been diminished by benzene contamination of the groundwater from an adjacent oil refinery which had been in operation for nearly 100 years.  In checking off the certification requirements, the district court held that the question of whether the multiple defendants who owned and operated the refinery during the preceding 90 plus years failed to “contain petroleum byproduct [resulting] in contamination to Roxana property” predominated.   The Seventh Circuit panel unanimously disagreed.  Judge Posner, writing for the Court, described the opinion as necessary for clarification of a trial court’s responsibility to conduct a “rigorous analysis” of whether common issues predominate; in doing so, he did not hesitate to take the district judge to task for “treat[ing] predominance as a pleading requirement” rather than an evidentiary one.  Read More »

Last week, the Court of Appeals of New York (the state’s highest court) definitively ruled that under New York law, a plaintiff cannot assert an independent cause of action for medical monitoring.  Rather, medical monitoring in New York is only available as an element of consequential damages for another tort where a plaintiff has suffered physical injury or property damage. Read More »

In BASF v. Township of Toms River, No. 002155-2011 (N.J. Tax Court Dec. 5, 2013), the Court was asked to decide, in advance of trial, the proper methodology for determining the assessed value of a large tract of land that had been designated as a Superfund Site, but which contained large portions of uncontaminated and developable land.  While the Township sought to discount the value of only the polluted areas of the property, the owner contended that the pollution discount must be applied to the entire parcel.  And that is exactly how the Court saw it. Read More »

Determining the appropriate Statute of Limitations for claims brought pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 9601, et seq. (“CERCLA”), is often a tricky matter.  Usually, the issue arises in the context of determining whether a claim is properly brought under Section 107(a), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), for costs voluntarily incurred, or § 113(f), 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f), for costs incurred pursuant to a court order or approved settlement, as Section 107(a) claims may be subject to a six-year statute of limitations, while claims under Section 113(f) have a three-year limitations period.  However, in State of New York v. Next Millenium Realty, LLC, No. 12-2894-cv (2nd Cir. Oct. 15, 2013), the Second Circuit turned its attention to a different distinction, the one between removal actions and remedial actions, as Section 107(a) claims “must be commenced … for a removal action, within 3 years after completion of the removal action [and] for a remedial action, within 6 years after initiation of physical on-site construction of the remedial action. . . .”  42 U.S.C. Section 9613(g)(2)(B).  In order to find the claims of the State of New York timely, the Court held that a water purification system in use for over 15 years was nevertheless a removal action and not a remedial action because, among other things, the measures were intended to “minimize and mitigate” damage from contamination and not to “permanently eliminate” it.  Id. at 24. Read More »

Under Section 9607(a)(3) of CERCLA, a party who has arranged for the disposal of hazardous substances at a facility may, like other categories of Potentially Responsible Parties, be strictly liable for response costs.  Where the PRP has engaged in the sale of a “useful product,” even one known to be hazardous, is not liable as an arranger unless the PRP has taken “intentional steps to dispose of a hazardous substance.”   Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. U.S., 556 U.S. 599, 609-10 (2009)(“BNSF”).  Mere knowledge that there might be a discharge of hazardous substances in connection with the transport or use of the product is not sufficient to impose arranger liability.  Id. at 611.  As a result, “whether an entity is an arranger requires a fact-intensive inquiry that looks beyond the parties’ characterization of the transaction . . . and seeks to discern whether the arrangement was on Congress intended to fall within the scope of CERCLA’s strict-liability provisions.  Id. at 610.  Just such a “fact-intensive inquiry” was undertaken by the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan last week in Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP v. NCR Corp., Case No. 1:11-CV-483 (W.D.MI. Sept. 26, 2013), one of a number of cases dealing with the recycling of “broke,” or scraps of carbonless copy paper coated with a PCB-containing emulsion produced by NCR from the mid-1950’s until 1971.  Read More »

For decades, it has been the unanswered question – what is the statute of limitations for a claim under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11, et. seq. (the “Spill Act”)?  Unlike CERCLA, the Spill Act contains no express statute of limitations for private contribution actions.  Thus, trial courts have been left to fend for themselves and, as a result, have failed to achieve consensus.  Federal district courts have unanimously applied New Jersey’s six year limitations period for actions for damages to real property, while, until Friday, the only state decision was an unpublished trial court opinion holding that there is no limitations period for such claims.  But on August 23, 2013, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, in the case of Morristown Assoc. v. Grant Oil Co., No. A-0313-11T3 (App. Div. Aug. 23, 2013), finally spoke and, in agreement with the federal courts, held that the six-year limitations period applies. Read More »

As footnoted in yesterday’s post, the decision in Trinity Industries, Inc. v. Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., No. 12-2059 (3rd Cir. Aug. 20, 2013), was a twofer.  Yesterday, we wrote about that part of the decision which held that a party who has resolved its liability under state statutes may seek contribution under Section 113(f) of CERCLA.  Today, we look at the second part of the decision, which concerns the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), 42 U.S.C. §6901, et seq.  Read More »

The Third Circuit keeps rolling out environmental decisions this month, and while Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, No. 12-4216 (3d Cir. Aug. 20, 2013), received the lion’s share of press this week (including here), another decision issued the same day, Trinity Industries, Inc. v. Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., No. 12-2059 (3rd Cir. Aug. 20, 2013), is also worth reading.  In it, the Third Circuit holds that a party who has resolved its liability to the state for remediation under state law may pursue contribution under CERCLA, which puts the Third Circuit in conflict with the Second Circuit on this issue. Read More »