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On May 7, 2024, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied Defendant ISP Environmental Service Inc.’s (“IES”) motion to dismiss the United States’ (“the Government”) complaint seeking relief under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”). United States v. ISP Envt’l Servs. Inc., 2024 WL 2013949 (D.N.J. 2024).  IES had argued in support of its motion to dismiss that it was neither an owner or operator of the site at issue, and therefore, was not a potentially responsible party under CERCLA.   The district court nevertheless held that IES was potentially liable under CERCLA as the corporate successor of another entity that had owned and operated the site, GAF Chemicals, because the Government plausibly alleged that IES assumed the liabilities for the site pursuant to a contract with GAF Chemicals.    Read More »

The Eleventh Circuit recently addressed the standing requirements for a procedural-rights claim, in this case one arising from an agency’s alleged failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  In a split 2-1 decision in Center for a Sustainable Coast v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the court held that standing to challenge an agency’s alleged violation of NEPA does not require a showing that a procedural do-over would necessarily redress a substantive injury. No. 22-11079, 2024 WL 1918733 (11th Cir. May 2, 2024). Read More »

Cost-recovery and contribution lawsuits under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) can sometimes drag on for several years, or longer, because of the multitude of potentially responsible parties (PRPs), the often-separate liability and allocation phases, and appeals of rulings decided at each phase, among other complications.  The recent decision in Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP et al. v. NCR Corp., 1:11-cv-483 (W.D. Mich.), highlights the winding and prolonged paths that some of these cases can take.  Read More »

On April 12, 2024, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided Sheetz v. County of El Dorado, California, No. 22-1074, holding that county-level legislation that imposes conditions on the receipt of building permits, here the imposition of traffic impact fees, may amount to a taking under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment when the conditions do not have an “essential nexus” to the government’s land use interest and a “rough proportionality” to the proposed development’s impact on that interest.  The ruling overturned decisions from lower courts that had held that the Takings Clause operates to invalidate only administrative conditions imposed by local land use agencies, not legislative enactments like the traffic impact fee imposed by the County in this case.   Read More »

In State of Louisiana et al. v. U.S. Envt’l Prot. Agency et al., 2:23-CV-01714, 2024 WL 994651 (W.D. La. Mar. 7, 2024), a federal judge rejected certain states’ and industry groups’ motion for preliminary relief to enjoin the EPA’s revised Clean Water Act (“CWA”) rule (“2023 Rule”). The 2023 Rule reinstated EPA’s long-held interpretation of Section 401 of the CWA that afforded states and tribes broad authority to veto or impose conditions on federally permitted activities due to water quality concerns. The court’s decision is a blow to efforts instituted by EPA under the Trump administration to interpret the authority of states and tribes more narrowly under Section 401. Read More »

In Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ltd., No. 2:04-CV-00256-SAB, 2024 WL 627260 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 14, 2024), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington held that CERCLA does not mandate a procedure for conducting natural resource damage assessments (NRDAs), nor is certainty of costs required for NRDAs to be considered valid under the CERCLA statute. Read More »

In California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, 89 F. 4th 1094 (9th Cir. 2024), the Ninth Circuit was tasked with determining whether the City of Berkeley’s attempt to prohibit the use of natural gas pipelines in new buildings through a local ordinance conflicted with the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (“EPCA”), 42 U.S.C. § 6297(c).  That statute expressly preempts state and local governments from enacting regulations restricting energy use of many natural gas appliances, including those used in household and restaurant kitchens.  After evaluating the parties’ arguments, the court concluded that the ordinance is preempted by the EPCA based on the text, structure, and context of that statute.  Read More »

On January 3, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed a district court decision that held that a Colorado gold mining company’s operation of four settling ponds constituted an unpermitted discharge of pollutants into navigable waters under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”).  In Stone v. High Mountain Mining Company, No. 22-1340 (10th Cir. 2024), the Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not correctly follow the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020) regarding the CWA’s applicability to indirect discharges to navigable waters. Read More »

On January 2, 2024, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued an order to exclude the expert testimony of Dr. Robert Michaels in a series of cases related to the corrosive water in Flint, Michigan. Carthan, et al. v. Snyder et al, No. 5:16-cv-1044 (E.D. Mich. 2024). The court held that Dr. Michaels, in applying a methodology commonly employed by epidemiologists known as the Bradford Hill guidelines, failed to establish an association between corrosive water and skin and hair conditions, and without such, the testimony was unreliable and could not be used to infer causation between Flint water and reported skin rashes and hair loss.  Read More »

On December 6, 2023, in Short Creek Development v. MFA Incorporated, No 22-05021, 2023 WL 8452430 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 6, 2023), a Federal District Court in Missouri held that Defendant Missouri Farmers Association, Inc. ("MFA") failed to demonstrate that a divisibility of harm exception to the rule of joint and several liability should be applied in apportioning responsibility to pay for the cleanup costs at a fertilizer plant.  The case underscores the challenges associated with establishing divisibility of harm in a CERCLA action. Read More »