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Last week, Judge Chad F. Kenney, former Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge and recent appointee to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted Defendant Bethlehem Landfill Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that landfill odors created a public and private nuisance for all households within a 2.5-mile radius of the facility. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co. et al., No. 18-2691, 2019 WL 1219709 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2019). The lead plaintiffs, Robin and Dexter Baptiste, reside 1.6 miles from the facility and allege that odors from the facility impacted their property value and ability to enjoy their property. Id. at *5. They alleged that the conditions affected 8,400 households within a 2.5-mile radius. Id.  They styled their claims as claims for public nuisance, private nuisance, and negligence. Id. at *1. Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico denied the federal government’s motions to dismiss claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). The district court was not convinced by the government’s argument that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the plaintiffs’ complaints were inadequate. It denied the motions and allowed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to discovery. Read More »

In a matter of first impression in Delaware, the Delaware Superior Court recently held that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (“DNREC”) does not have authority under its cease and desist powers to mandate that an alleged violator take affirmative corrective action. See Del. v. McGinnis Auto & Mobile Home Salvage, LLC, K17A-09-001 JJC (Del. Super. Feb. 21, 2019). The court decided that when DNREC seeks to require a violator to take affirmative action, DNREC must obtain appropriate injunctive relief in Delaware’s Court of Chancery. Read More »

Last month in the case Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. APM Terminals Tacoma, LLC, et al., No. C17-5016 BHS (W.D. Wa. Jan. 31, 2019), the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington dismissed Plaintiff Puget Soundkeeper Alliance’s (“Soundkeeper”) Clean Water Act citizen suit against SSA Terminals, LLC (“SSA”) for failing to satisfy the CWA’s pre-suit notice requirements. The case addressed the novel question of whether the Soundkeeper’s “anticipatory” pre-suit notice letter to SSA, who was served with the letter before it had even taken over operations at the property in question, satisfied the CWA’s 60-day pre-suit notice requirement. The court rejected Soundkeeper’s novel theory and dismissed the CWA claim against SSA. Read More »

In Kerns v. Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, No. 18-3636 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2019), released on Monday, February 4, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a pipeline’s use of Ohio’s forced pooling law is not a taking under the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision, although not recommended for full text publication, is significant as more states enact and/or expand the scope of such laws, and may influence a similar suit brought in Colorado, within the Tenth Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s forced pooling regulations.  Read More »

On January 15, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment in Arconic, Inc., et al. v. APC Inv. Co., Case No. CV-14-6456-GW (C.D. Cal. Jan. 15, 2019), ruling that Plaintiffs’ contribution claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Section 113(g)(3) were barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations. What makes the decision noteworthy is that the Court found that the limitations period began to run ten years before the Plaintiffs entered into the Consent Decree with EPA and the State of California to undertake the remediation giving rise to the contribution claim. Read More »

On January 4, 2019, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed a Middlesex County trial court order holding that judicial estoppel is a valid defense to contribution claims under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (the “Spill Act”), at N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 to 23.24. The case, Terranova et al., v. Gen. Elec. Pension Trust et al., N.J. Super. App. Div. Docket No. A-5699-16T3, involved a dispute between Plaintiffs Matthew and Karen Terranova and their company New Land Holdings, LLC, the current landowners of a contaminated gas station property, against Defendants General Electric Pension Trust, Atlantic Richfield Co., Amerco Real Estate Company, Charles Boris, Jr., Carol Boris, and Edward Wilgucki, former owner-operators at the site. Plaintiffs sought contribution for costs to remediate impacts from leaking gasoline underground storage tanks (“USTs”). Read More »

Quoting a Dr. Seuss book, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Thursday issued its opinion in Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. United States Forest Service, No. 18-1144 (4th Cir. Dec. 13, 2018). The Court held that the US Forest Service (the “Forest Service”) violated the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), as well as lacked statutory authority under the Mineral Leasing Act (“MLA”) to grant a pipeline right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Train (the “Appalachian Trail”), failing to “speak for the trees” as Seuss’s Lorax directs. Read More »

Late last month the Supreme Court of the United States kept alive private landowners’ challenge to a final rule that designated their land as “critical habitat” for the endangered Dusky Gopher Frog. Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., No. 17-71, 2018 WL 6174253 at *6 (2018) (slip opn.). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the 1544-acre parcel in Louisiana—known as “Unit 1”—after it found the site “essential for the conservation of the species.” Id. The District Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the Service’s conclusion and upheld the designation. Id. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. Id. at *7–8, 10. Focusing on the text of the Endangered Species Act, the Court held that: (1) a proposed site must be “habitat” for an endangered species before the Service can designate it as “habitat that is critical,” and (2) federal courts should review for an abuse of discretion the Service’s decision not to exclude a site from designation. Id. Read More »

In an unpublished opinion, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that the Government was not liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) for remediation costs incurred at a former defense site. PPG Indus., Inc. v. United States, No. 12-3526, 2018 WL 6168623 (D.N.J. Nov. 26, 2018). Last year we reported on TDY Holdings v. United States, in which the Ninth Circuit rejected a zero percent liability allocation to the government for remediation costs incurred at a former aeronautical manufacturing plant. In PPG Industries, the District of New Jersey found that the Government’s general wartime control over a New Jersey chromite facility was insufficient by itself to impose liability absent a direct connection between the Government and waste disposal activities. The District Court’s decision highlights a hurdle for private parties hoping to hold the government responsible for cleanup costs incurred at former defense sites. Read More »