{ Banner Image }
Search this blog

Subscribe for updates

Recent Posts

Blog editor

Blog Contributors

Love Canal – the infamous neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York where large quantities of chemical waste was dumped, and which became the catalyst for enactment of the federal Superfund program – is still generating legal opinions, nearly 40 years after President Jimmy Carter declared a federal health emergency and Love Canal became the first Superfund site.  Read More »

UPDATE: 

This past Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit delayed for two weeks its mandate which required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift its 90-day stay on portions of its methane rule for new oil and gas infrastructure.  The Court issued the mandate after determining that the EPA lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to issue the stay on the Obama-era regulations as further discussed in the original blog post below.  The order delaying the mandate indicates that the Court is providing EPA with time to “determine whether to seek panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or pursue other relief” with respect to the mandate.  Thus, the methane rule is again on hold for the next several weeks while EPA decides whether and how to challenge the Court’s lifting of the 90-day stay.     

ORIGINAL POST:

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down a 90-day stay imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on portions of its methane rule for new oil and gas infrastructure, finding the agency lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to issue the stay. Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, No. 17-1145 (D.C. Cir. July 3, 2017).  The methane rule, which establishes “New Source Performance Standards” for fugitive emissions of methane and other pollutants by the oil and natural gas industries, was finalized in June 2016 by the Obama administration.  Notably, the Court’s 2-1 decision puts back into effect the June 3, 2017 deadline for regulated entities to conduct an initial monitoring survey to identify leaks from equipment. Read More »

This Post was authored by Christopher Rodrigues, a MGKF summer associate.

In a unanimous decision penned by Circuit Judge Kavanaugh, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court decision holding that the EPA properly withheld information from its response to several environmental groups' Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests. Envtl. Integrity Project v. EPA, No. 16-5109, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9332, at *4 (D.C. Cir. May 30, 2017).  The court held that Section 308 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) does not supersede Exemption 4 of FOIA. Id.  In relevant part, Section 308 of the CWA states that effluent data shall be made available to the public, unless releasing the information would divulge trade secrets.  33 U.S.C. § 1318(b) (1987).  Exemption 4 under FOIA, however, allows the government to withhold information that would reveal a company’s trade secrets or commercial or financial information.  5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) (2016).  Thus, the inconsistent exemptions have created tension in the lower courts that the D.C. Circuit has attempted to alleviate for future decisions in Environmental Integrity. Read More »

On June 7, 2017, the Commonwealth Court upheld a zoning ordinance allowing oil and gas drilling in mixed use agricultural and residential areas of a Butler County municipality because the pre-existing zoning code had already allowed construction of what the Court found were substantially similar public utility structures. 

The issues in Delaware Riverkeeper et al. v. Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board v. R.E. Gas Development LLC et al., 1229 CD 2015, 1323 CD 2015, 2609 CD 2015, arose out of Middlesex Township’s Ordinance 127, enacted in 2014, which sought to add a “oil and gas well site development” use within a Residential-Agricultural (“R-AG”) District. Environmental groups, the Clean Air Council and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, appealed the Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board’s enactment of the ordinance, upheld by the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, which found in part that the added language was a permissible extension of the already existing zoning provisions. Read More »

In a 2-1 decision last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals declined to dismiss a lawsuit against Dow Chemical in connection with dioxin contamination in the soils of the Tittabawassee River flood plain. Henry v. Dow Chemical Co., LC No. 03-047775-NZ (Mich. Ct. App. June 1, 2017).  Affirming the lower court’s denial of Dow’s motion for summary disposition, the Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the plaintiffs’ claims for negligence and nuisance were barred by the applicable statute of limitations even though the public was made aware of potential dioxin contamination in the river from Dow’s operations as early as 1984.  The Court’s analysis, which was accompanied by a dissenting opinion, turned on the fact that Dow failed to support its motion with evidence that the floodplain soils on the plaintiffs’ property were contaminated as far back as the 1980s.  Read More »

The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (the “Board”) recently stirred up some controversy. Last month, in Lancaster Against Pipelines v. DEP, EHB Docket No. 2016-075-L (May 10, 2017), the Board held that it has jurisdiction to review actions taken by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) involving interstate natural gas pipelines, despite a 2013 decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that held precisely the opposite. Read More »

Last week, the Second Circuit issued an unpublished decision affirming an earlier decision of the Eastern District of New York that stands for the principle that a passive lessee that subleases a property to an unaffiliated tenant is neither an “Owner” nor an “Operator” under CERCLA. Next Millenium Realty, LLC v. Adchem Corp., No. 16-1260-cv, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8476 (2d Cir. May 11, 2017).  Read More »

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling to decertify a class action filed by landowners for releases from Exxon’s 850-mile Pegasus Pipeline that crosses four states from Texas to Illinois.  The case, Webb, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., Dkt. No. 15-2879 (8th Cir., May 11, 2017), was filed by a group of landowners who claimed that Exxon materially breached the terms of their right-of-way easement agreements by allegedly failing to inspect, maintain, repair, and replace the pipeline, which was originally installed in the mid-1940s.  At various times since the 1980s, the pipeline had releases in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, which the plaintiffs claim resulted in damage to their properties.  The plaintiffs sought to rescind their right-of-way easement agreements and force Exxon to remove or replace the entire pipeline, or in the alternative, to be paid damages for breach of contract and diminution in property value.  Read More »

Last week, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held in a unanimous decision that latent environmental property contamination triggered several comprehensive general liability (“CGL”) insurance policies despite the fact that the contamination was not discovered until at least a decade later. In doing so, the Court resolved a question left open by two earlier Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions over whether latent property damage in “occurrence” policies is triggered at the time the damage occurs or when the damage first manifests itself.     Read More »

In a unanimous decision of a three judge panel last week, the Second Circuit decided that it lacked jurisdiction to overturn a S.D.N.Y. judge’s order enforcing the terms of the Tronox bankruptcy settlement against a group of more than 4,000 Pennsylvania state court plaintiffs. Tronox, Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Corp., No. 16-343, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6949 (2d Cir. Apr. 20, 2017).  Both the district court’s decision and the Second Circuit’s decision protected Kerr-McGee, bankrupt Tronox’s corporate parent, from a Pennsylvania toxic tort suit related to contamination surrounding a wood treatment plant in Avoca, Pennsylvania. Read More »