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Showing 34 posts from 2017.

A putative class of plaintiffs who allege to have lived in a defined geographic area around a manufacturing plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire, or have been served by the town’s municipal water supply, sued the manufacturer in federal court, alleging property damage claims and exposure to perfluorooctanoate (AFPO) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that warrants medical monitoring.  Brown v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. et al., No. 16-cv-242, 2017 WL 6043956 (D.N.H. Dec. 6, 2017).  The plaintiffs’ claims were styled as common law claims for negligence, trespass, nuisance, and negligent failure to warn, as well as an equitable claim for “negative unjust enrichment” on the theory that the manufacturer was unjustly enriched by avoiding costs associated with preventing the release of contaminants.  The Court dismissed the unjust enrichment count but allowed the remaining claims to proceed. Read More »

In 2014, the Town of Westport, Massachusetts (Westport) brought suit against Monsanto Company (Monsanto) seeking to recover costs it had and would incur in remediating PCB-containing caulk used in the construction of the Westport Middle School in 1969.  Through a series of pretrial motions, the district court eventually dismissed all claims against Monsanto and its related entities, and in the recent decision of Town of Westport v. Monsanto, No. 17-1461, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24827 (1st Cir. Dec. 8, 2017), the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s actions, dealing a blow to purchasers of PCB-containing building materials seeking similar recoveries.  Read More »

On November 8, 2017, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (the “Board”) issued an adjudication in Friends of Lackawanna v. DEP, EHB Docket No. 2015-063-L (Adjudication issued Nov. 8, 2017), in which the Board upheld the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) issuance of a renewal of Keystone Sanitary Landfill, Inc’s (“Keystone”) solid waste management permit for the Keystone Landfill. At the same time, the Board added a condition to the permit requiring Keystone to prepare a groundwater assessment plan based on groundwater degradation observed in one of its monitoring wells. Interspersed throughout this decision was language that shed additional light on the Board’s view of how Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, often referred to as the Environmental Rights Amendment, applies to DEP permitting decisions. Read More »

In a decision issued earlier this month, Judge Wolfson of the District of New Jersey held that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) could recover primary restoration natural resource damages from a responsible party as long as NJDEP demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that its proposed primary restoration plan is “practicable.” New Jersey Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Amerada Hess Corp., No. 15-6468 (FLW)(LHG) (D.N.J. Nov. 1, 2017).  In so holding, Judge Wolfson rejected an argument by the defendants, including Exxon Mobil Corporation and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (“Defendants”), that primary restoration natural resource damages were available only upon a showing of “an injury or threat to human health, flora, or fauna.”  The court found that such a standard, which was derived by Defendants from unpublished, non-controlling authority from New Jersey state courts, was inconsistent with the plain language of the Spill Act that speaks directly in terms of “practicability.” Read More »

A bit over two years ago, we reported here on the district court decision in TDY Holdings v. United States, 122 F. Supp. 3d 998  (S.D. Cal. 2015), in which the court allocated 0% liability to the United States, despite the fact that it was an undisputed PRP at the site.  The decision was surprising at the time and, as with many surprising decisions, it did not survive on appeal as earlier this month the Ninth Circuit held in TDY Holdings v. United States, No. 15-56483, 2017 U.S. App. Lexis 19371 (9th Cir. Oct. 4, 2017), that TDY, a military contractor, was not solely responsible for remediation costs incurred at a former aeronautical manufacturing plant and thus remanded the matter back to the lower court to take another pass at allocating liability among the two parties.  The Ninth Circuit’s opinion thus allows military contractors seeking contribution from the government for remediation costs incurred at former defense sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to breathe a long sigh of relief. Read More »

The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), better known as Superfund, provides private parties with two types of claims to recover costs associated with investigating and remediating contaminated sites – a cost recovery claim under CERCLA Section 107(a), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), and a contribution claim under Section 113(f), 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f).  A party has a claim for contribution under CERCLA Section 113(f)(3)(B) if that party has “resolved its liability to the United States or a State for some or all of a response action or for some or all of the costs of such action in an administrative or judicially approved settlement.”  A party can therefore settle its liability for a contaminated site with the EPA or a state government, and then seek to recover a portion of the costs of that settlement from other potentially responsible parties who contributed to the contamination at the site.  But, CERCLA imposes a 3-year statute of limitations on Section 113 contribution actions, which begins to run from the date of entry of the administrative or judicially approved settlement.  While at first, this may appear to be a cut-and-dry statute of limitations, there is ample case law exploring the nuances of what it means for a party to have “resolved” its liability with the government such that the 3-year statute of limitations begins to run.  Last month, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit added to that growing body of case law, in Asarco, LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 866 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2017). Read More »

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled that Dico, Inc. and its corporate affiliate Titan Tire Corporation (collectively, “Dico”) intended to arrange for the disposal of hazardous substances in violation of CERCLA when it knowingly sold multiple buildings contaminated with PCBs with the understanding that the purchaser intended to reuse only the buildings’ steel beams and dispose of the remaining materials. United States v. Dico, Inc., No. 4:10-cv-00503, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151580 (S.D. Iowa Sep. 5, 2017).  The decision came after the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the lower court’s earlier ruling on summary judgment that Dico was liable as an arranger under CERCLA for the sale of the PCB-laden buildings.  In the appellate decision, which we blogged about here, the Court of Appeals held that the issue of whether Dico intended to dispose of the hazardous substances through the sale was the central question in determining whether CERCLA arranger liability applied and should not have been decided at the summary judgment stage.  That decision, as summarized in our blog, discusses the legal framework of CERCLA arranger liability and the “useful product defense,” which prevents a seller of a useful product from being subject to such liability, even when the product itself is a hazardous substance that requires future disposal.  Read More »

Western District of Pennsylvania Magistrate Judge Susan P. Baxter reiterated in an opinion issued last Friday that certain municipal laws prohibiting natural gas drilling are preempted by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. Seneca Res. Corp. v. Highland Twp. et al., No. 16-cv-289 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 29, 2017) (“Seneca III”).  The decision is the result of a complex procedural and political history in the township, and it reinforced an earlier settlement and consent decree between the same parties.  In its opinion, the federal court’s decision provided guidance regarding the interplay among federal, state, and local authority over energy development in Pennsylvania. Read More »

New Jersey’s Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act (the “Brownfield Act”) provides that a “person” who owns contaminated property may be entitled to a Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund Innocent Party Grant (“innocent party grant”) to pay for remediation of the property so long as that person meets two requirements: (i) the person acquired the property prior to December 31, 1983 and continued to hold it until the innocent party grant is approved, and (ii) the person did not contribute to the contamination at the property.  N.J.S.A. 58:10B-6(a)(4).

In a decision issued last week, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC (“Cedar Knolls”) was eligible for an innocent party grant for the remediation of its property even though Cedar Knolls was not technically the same “person” that acquired the property before the statutory deadline. (Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC v. NJDEP, Dkt. No. A-1405-15T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. Sept. 20, 2017)).  In doing so, the Superior Court explained that, with respect to owners eligible for innocent party grants, the Brownfield Act was more concerned with the “substance of ownership and continuity than the technicalities of the legal form.” Read More »

Section 612 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) requires that manufacturers replace substances that have been determined to deplete the stratospheric ozone layer with alternatives that do not have the same effect. Section 612 further directs EPA to develop a list of safe substitutes and a list of prohibited substitutes. Hydrofluorocarbons (“HFCs”) were on the safe substitutes list until 2015, when EPA moved many of them to the prohibited substitutes list.  EPA asserted that this change required manufacturers who had been using HFCs to replace them with other substances from the safe list.  The 2015 Rule was challenged, and on August 8, 2017, in Mexichem Fluor Inc. et al., v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 15-1328, the D.C. Circuit vacated the 2015 Rule to the extent that it required manufacturers to cease using HFCs as a replacement for ozone-depleting substances.  Read More »