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On December 17, 2019, the Honorable Judge Charles F. Lettow of the United States Court of Federal Claims, issued a 46-page opinion finding the federal government liable for taking a flowage easement on private properties within the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs and upstream of the Addicks and Barker Dams—two federal flood control projects along the gulf coast in Texas.  In re Upstream Addicks & Barker (Texas) Flood-Control Reservoirs, No. 17-9001L, slip op. (Fed. Cl. Dec. 17, 2019).  The decision is the first step for upstream property owners hoping to recover damages for severe flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey over two years ago. Read More »

The adage “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube” has manifested itself in two recent federal court decisions. Under separate theories, both the Second Circuit and the District Court of the District of Columbia have issued decisions that highlight the difficulty environmental groups faced in challenging energy infrastructure projects that have been completed during the course of litigation. Read More »

Sometimes a movie can solve one mystery but hold off answering others, leaving viewers eager for the sequel. Legal opinions can be the same, as is the Third Circuit’s opinion in Cranbury Brick Yard, LLC v. United States, No. 18-3287 (3rd Cir. Nov. 22, 2019). After holding that the limitations period for a contribution action accrues from the date of entry into a non-judicial settlement and order on consent, the Court then sidesteps the issue of exactly what limitations period applies. Read More »

Thanks to amendments to the New Jersey Spill Act in the summer of 2019, and the superior court, appellate division’s recent decision in NJDEP v. Alsol Corporation, No. A-3546-17T1, -- A.3d --, 2019 WL 5947024 (N.J. Super. App. Nov. 13, 2019), NJDEP has clear jurisdiction to bring civil penalty actions in municipal court for violations of the Spill Act.  Among the summer 2019 amendments to the New Jersey Spill Act was the addition of an explanatory sentence at the end of N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11u(d), the statutory section providing jurisdiction for NJDEP’s issuance of civil penalties in superior or municipal court, as shown by the underlining below. Read More »

Relying on Texas caselaw, the Fifth Circuit, in Gao v. Blue Ridge Landfill TX, L.P., No. 19-40062 (5th Cir. Oct. 30, 2019), affirmed a district court decision which held that homeowners who moved near a preexisting landfill were subject to a two-year statute of limitations to bring suit based on odors emanating from the landfill. The case, while reliant on state law, nonetheless suggests that such claims that sound in nuisance need to be brought quickly, and that even a change in operations or uptick in odor complaints may be insufficient to reset the clock on the viability of claims. Read More »

Last week the Supreme Court of Montana held that there is no implied private right of action for judicial enforcement under the Montana Water Use Act (Act).  In Lyman Creek, LLC v. City of Bozeman, DA 19-0112 (Mont. 2019), the Court determined that the Act reserves the right of enforcement only for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the attorney general, and the county attorneys. Read More »

Earlier this month, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio denied motions to dismiss filed by 3M Company, DuPont, Chemours, and other chemical companies in a putative class action lawsuit relating to exposure to PFAS chemicals. Hardwick v. 3M Company, Case No. 2:18-cv-1185 (S.D. Ohio). The court held that the named plaintiff had properly alleged an injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing and Ohio law by claiming that he was exposed to PFAS chemicals and that PFAS have been linked to negative health outcomes, despite arguments by the chemical companies that he had not suffered an actual, compensable injury.   Read More »

On September 20, 2019, hitting a trifecta of commonly-litigated CERCLA issues, Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel, Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, partially denied and partially granted Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in The Premcor Refining Group Inc., v. Apex Oil Company, Inc., et. al., No. 17-cv-738-NJR-MAB (S.D. Ill.). The Court held (a) Premcor had adequately pled fact to withstand a defense that the petroleum exclusion barred the claims; (b) Premcor could not simultaneously plead 107 and 113 claims, dismissing its cost recovery claims inasmuch as Premcor had settled its claims with the State of Illinois; and (c) the contribution protection Apex Oil obtained in its settlement with the State of Illinois included CERCLA claims barred Premcor’s claims. Read More »

On September 10, the Third Circuit held that while the National Gas Act (NGA) delegates the federal government’s power of eminent domain to private gas companies, it does not necessarily delegate the federal government’s exemption from state sovereign immunity. In re: PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC, No. 19-1191 (3d Cir. 2019). As a result, private entities acting under the NGA cannot condemn state-owned property absent action by an accountable federal official. Read More »

On August 22, 2019, the Seventh Circuit held that a plaintiff had sufficiently settled its cleanup liability under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the State of Indiana, which triggered the plaintiff’s right to bring a contribution claim, but that the statute of limitations on the plaintiff’s contribution claim had run. See Refined Metals Corp. v. NL Industries Inc., No. 1-17-cv-2565 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 22, 2019). Read More »