{ Banner Image }
Search this blog

Subscribe for updates

Recent Posts

Blog editor

Blog Contributors

Showing 29 posts from 2017.

The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), better known as Superfund, provides private parties with two types of claims to recover costs associated with investigating and remediating contaminated sites – a cost recovery claim under CERCLA Section 107(a), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), and a contribution claim under Section 113(f), 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f).  A party has a claim for contribution under CERCLA Section 113(f)(3)(B) if that party has “resolved its liability to the United States or a State for some or all of a response action or for some or all of the costs of such action in an administrative or judicially approved settlement.”  A party can therefore settle its liability for a contaminated site with the EPA or a state government, and then seek to recover a portion of the costs of that settlement from other potentially responsible parties who contributed to the contamination at the site.  But, CERCLA imposes a 3-year statute of limitations on Section 113 contribution actions, which begins to run from the date of entry of the administrative or judicially approved settlement.  While at first, this may appear to be a cut-and-dry statute of limitations, there is ample case law exploring the nuances of what it means for a party to have “resolved” its liability with the government such that the 3-year statute of limitations begins to run.  Last month, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit added to that growing body of case law, in Asarco, LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 866 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2017). Read More »

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled that Dico, Inc. and its corporate affiliate Titan Tire Corporation (collectively, “Dico”) intended to arrange for the disposal of hazardous substances in violation of CERCLA when it knowingly sold multiple buildings contaminated with PCBs with the understanding that the purchaser intended to reuse only the buildings’ steel beams and dispose of the remaining materials. United States v. Dico, Inc., No. 4:10-cv-00503, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151580 (S.D. Iowa Sep. 5, 2017).  The decision came after the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the lower court’s earlier ruling on summary judgment that Dico was liable as an arranger under CERCLA for the sale of the PCB-laden buildings.  In the appellate decision, which we blogged about here, the Court of Appeals held that the issue of whether Dico intended to dispose of the hazardous substances through the sale was the central question in determining whether CERCLA arranger liability applied and should not have been decided at the summary judgment stage.  That decision, as summarized in our blog, discusses the legal framework of CERCLA arranger liability and the “useful product defense,” which prevents a seller of a useful product from being subject to such liability, even when the product itself is a hazardous substance that requires future disposal.  Read More »

Western District of Pennsylvania Magistrate Judge Susan P. Baxter reiterated in an opinion issued last Friday that certain municipal laws prohibiting natural gas drilling are preempted by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. Seneca Res. Corp. v. Highland Twp. et al., No. 16-cv-289 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 29, 2017) (“Seneca III”).  The decision is the result of a complex procedural and political history in the township, and it reinforced an earlier settlement and consent decree between the same parties.  In its opinion, the federal court’s decision provided guidance regarding the interplay among federal, state, and local authority over energy development in Pennsylvania. Read More »

New Jersey’s Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act (the “Brownfield Act”) provides that a “person” who owns contaminated property may be entitled to a Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund Innocent Party Grant (“innocent party grant”) to pay for remediation of the property so long as that person meets two requirements: (i) the person acquired the property prior to December 31, 1983 and continued to hold it until the innocent party grant is approved, and (ii) the person did not contribute to the contamination at the property.  N.J.S.A. 58:10B-6(a)(4).

In a decision issued last week, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC (“Cedar Knolls”) was eligible for an innocent party grant for the remediation of its property even though Cedar Knolls was not technically the same “person” that acquired the property before the statutory deadline. (Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC v. NJDEP, Dkt. No. A-1405-15T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. Sept. 20, 2017)).  In doing so, the Superior Court explained that, with respect to owners eligible for innocent party grants, the Brownfield Act was more concerned with the “substance of ownership and continuity than the technicalities of the legal form.” Read More »

Section 612 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) requires that manufacturers replace substances that have been determined to deplete the stratospheric ozone layer with alternatives that do not have the same effect. Section 612 further directs EPA to develop a list of safe substitutes and a list of prohibited substitutes. Hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”) were on the safe substitutes list until 2015, when EPA moved many of them to the prohibited substitutes list.  EPA asserted that this change required manufacturers who had been using HFCs to replace them with other substances from the safe list.  The 2015 Rule was challenged, and on August 8, 2017, in Mexichem Fluor Inc. et al., v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 15-1328, the D.C. Circuit vacated the 2015 Rule to the extent that it required manufacturers to cease using HFCs as a replacement for ozone-depleting substances.  Read More »

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board issued an important decision that provides guidance on how to apply Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (“Environmental Rights Amendment” or “ERA”) in the context of a permitting decision in light of the Pa. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Pa. Environmental Defense Found. v. Commonwealth, No. 10 MAP 2015 (Pa. June 20, 2017) (“PEDF”).  See Center for Coalfield Justice v. DEP, EHB Docket No. 2014-072-B (Adjudication issued Aug. 15, 2017).   Read More »

Is a leaking pipeline indicative of an operator’s failed attempt to consider all relevant risk factors when the pipeline has had leaks in the past? In the context of pipeline integrity management regulations, the Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit said no.  On August 14, 2017, the Court vacated, in part, a final order issued by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) to ExxonMobil Pipeline Company (“ExxonMobil”), which found that ExxonMobil failed to properly consider the susceptibility of certain portions of its Pegasus Pipeline to seam failure and assessed a civil penalty of $2.6 million.  The opinion in ExxonMobil Pipeline Company v. United States DOT determined that, despite an oil leak from its Pegasus Pipeline, ExxonMobil was not in violation of PHMSA regulations requiring it to consider all risk factors that reflected the risk conditions on a certain pipeline segment because ExxonMobil “carefully [underwent] an informed decision-making process in good faith, reasonably taking into account all relevant risk factors in reaching a decision” that the pipeline was not at risk of seam failure.  2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15144 (Aug. 14, 2017). Read More »

On July 19, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the United States, as the title owner of a former mine, was a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), despite the fact that it did not have a possessory interest in the property at the time of the disposal of hazardous substances.  The opinion in Chevron Mining Inc. v. United States, No. 15-2209, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12959, at *1 (10th Cir. July 19, 2017) thus appears to put to rest a defense often asserted, primarily by governmental entities, that “bare legal title” is insufficient for CERCLA liability to attach and instead that some other and additional “indicia of ownership” is required. Read More »

On June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a majority decision, established a binding, heightened standard of review for challenges brought under Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment. See Pa. Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth, No. 10 MAP 2015 (Pa. June 20, 2017) (PEDF).  The Court’s decision in PEDF affirmed and expanded upon the Court’s 2013 plurality decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013), which the Commonwealth Court had refused to follow. Read More »

Earlier this month, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision that has broad implications for the manner in which Pennsylvania lawyers and their clients communicate with outside consultants, including environmental consultants. In BouSamra v. Excela Health, No. 1637 WDA 2015, 2017 PA Super 235 (July 19, 2017), the Superior Court held that a company waived the attorney-client privilege when it forwarded an email containing legal advice to one of its consultants, a public relations firm. The decision calls into question whether outside consultants should be involved in privileged legal discussions unless the consultant is actively involved in facilitating legal advice from counsel to client. Read More »