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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 »

Last week, the Central District of Illinois dismissed a case wherein an environmental group sought to extend liability to a corporation based on a groundwater connection to the Middle Fork River under the Clean Water Act (the “CWA”). Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC, 18-cv-02148 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 2018). In so doing, the court held that it was bound by the Seventh Circuit’s 1994 decision in Village of Oconomocow Lake v. Dayton Hudson Corp., 24 F.3d 962 (7th Cir. 1994) wherein the Circuit court had held that discharges into groundwater were not regulated under the CWA. The district court’s decision is in line with the Sixth Circuit’s recent decisions in Kentucky Waterways All. v. Kentucky Utilities Co., No. 18-5115, 2018 WL 4559315, (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018) and Tennessee Clean Water Network v. Tennessee Valley Auth., No. 17-6155, 2018 WL 4559103 (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018), discussed by this blog here and in contrast to the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Upstate Forever et al. v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP et al., No. 17-1640, 2018 WL 1748154 (4th Cir. April 12, 2018), discussed by this blog here. Read More »

Last week, the Commonwealth Court decided that municipalities lack the authority to regulate in the areas of environmental protection reserved to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Frederick v. Allegheny Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., No. 2295 C.D. 2015 (Oct. 26, 2018).  In this latest judicial decision addressing Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the “Environmental Rights Amendment”), the Court upheld a zoning ordinance that makes oil and gas development a permitted use by right in all zoning districts, including residential and agricultural districts, subject to certain standards related to road safety; the clearing of brush and trees; emergency planning; dust, noise and lighting controls; and security measures. Read More »