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On May 18, 2022 in York et al. v. Northrop Grumman Corp. Guidance and Electronics Co. Inc. et al., No. 21-cv-03251 (W.D. Mo.), a Missouri federal court dismissed Plaintiffs’ complaint alleging negligence, nuisance and trespass from alleged groundwater contamination, finding the claims were preempted by an existing consent decree. Read More »

Can plaintiffs in a citizen suit piggyback on existing governmental enforcement action and enforce the same alleged violation under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”)? Yes, as long as the citizen suit does not seek civil penalties, according to the First Circuit in The Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Inc. v. Gallo Builders, No. 19-2095, __ F. 4th __ (1st Cir. 2022).  The First Circuit, sitting en banc, held that under the CWA, administrative enforcement action by the government precludes only a citizen’s “civil penalty action,” which the Court interpreted to mean an action seeking civil penalties.  A citizen suit seeking other forms of relief, i.e. injunctive or declaratory, however, could proceed notwithstanding the government’s action.   Read More »

On April 21, 2022, in Tomas Vera et al. v. Middlesex Water Co. (MID-L-6306-21, Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County), a New Jersey Superior Court judge granted plaintiffs’ motion for certification in a case stemming from PFAS contamination of the county’s water supply.  Defendant Middlesex Water Co. (“Middlesex”) sent notices to customers on October 22, 2021 and November 8, 2021 advising that testing showed levels of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (“PFOA”) of 36.1 parts per trillion, well above the 14 parts per trillion maximum contaminant level (“MCL”) standard set by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”).  The notices further advised of health concerns potentially associated with PFOA, recommended that customers with “specific health concerns, a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant or are elderly” seek advice from a health care provider, and recommended installing a home water filter to reduce levels of PFOA in the tap water or use bottled water for drinking, cooking, or preparing beverages for infants. Read More »

In Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP v. NCR Corporation, the Sixth Circuit confronted a novel question concerning CERCLA’s statutes of limitations: whether a bare declaratory judgment on liability triggers the Section 113(g)(3) three-year limitations period for a contribution claim brought under Section 113(f)(1). The first circuit court to address this issue, the Court answered in the affirmative. Read More »

When a public interest environmental rights group or other party appeals a decision by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection affecting a planned project, it should name the permittee as a party on the Notice of Appeal and serve them accordingly. On April 11, 2022, the Supreme Court of New Jersey remanded a case back to the Appellate Division and held that an appellant natural gas company should have been named as a party in the Notice of Appeal and served. See In re Proposed Constr. of Compressor Station (CS327), No. 086428 (Apr. 11, 2022). Read More »

There are surprisingly few cases addressing whether, for an entity to be liable as an arranger under CERCLA, it must have known that the disposed substance was dangerous or hazardous. On March 10, 2022, in City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County v. The Lofts at Alameda, LLC, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico became the third federal district court to answer this question directly.

Two local government entities sued American Linen for cost recovery and contribution, alleging its decades-long operation of dry cleaning facilities caused them to incur costs to remediate a plume of contaminated groundwater. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that American Linen instructed its employees to dispose of PCE-laden wastes off site and that it contracted with a truck hauler to transport these wastes to a dump site three miles away. American Linen moved to dismiss, arguing principally that at the time of disposal, it did not know the wastes were hazardous substances. Read More »

In Borough of Edgewater v. Waterside Construction, LLC, et al., 2022 WL 557903 (D.N.J. Feb. 24, 2004), Plaintiff Borough of Edgewater (“Edgewater”) brought Spill Act claims relating to PCB contaminated material which was used as fill in a public park project.  At issue was whether Arconic, as a prior owner of the property from which the fill was obtained, was “in any way” responsible for contamination resulting from use of the fill at another property.  The Court held that, because Arconic had no control over the property, and hence the fill, at the time of its subsequent use, it was not liable to the Borough under the Spill Act. Read More »

A successful defense of a mass environmental tort case frequently turns on class certification.  In Holly Lloyd v. Covanta Plymouth Renewable Energy, LLC, No. 20-4330, 2022 WL 407377 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 10, 2022), a federal district court denied a motion to certify a class of neighboring residents complaining about noxious odors from a municipal waste incinerator.  In so holding, the court’s decision set out key strategies and considerations for defeating class certification in future mass environmental tort cases.  Read More »

On Tuesday, February 8, 2022, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Southern District of Alabama’s dismissal of admiralty claims against the United States for oil-removal damages holding first that Oil Pollution Act of 1990’s (“OPA”), 33 U.S.C.S. § 2701 et. seq., does not authorize a claim against the federal government, and second, the OPA’s comprehensive remedial scheme displaced the Government’s sovereign immunity waiver in the Suits in Admiralty Act of 1920 (“SAA”). See Savage Servs. Corp. v. United States, Slip Op. No. 21-10745 (11th Cir. Feb. 8, 2022). Read More »

Rejecting federal officer removal and federal question removal theories, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District of West Virginia’s remand of a state tort suit against the remediators of an EPA-permitted Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) site.  W.V. St. Univ. Bd. of Govs. v. Dow Chem. Co. et al., No. 20-1712, __ F.4th __, 2022 WL 90242 (Jan. 10, 2022). Read More »