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Showing 16 posts from 2019.

This Post was authored by Andrew LeDonne, a MGKF summer associate. 

On June 11, 2019 the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld a decision by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (“EHB”) denying the Sierra Club’s application for fees and costs under section 307(b) of the Clean Streams Law. Sierra Club v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 2019 WL 2426771 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2019).

On September 1, 2016, the EHB consolidated two third-party appeals filed by the Sierra Club to challenge an National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES) permit and a Water Quality Management (“WQM”) permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) to Lackawanna Energy Center, LLC (“LEC”). In April 2017, LEC redesigned its powerplant to reduce the amount of industrial wastewater generated by the facility such that the waste could be transported by truck off-site for treatment.  DEP issued a permit modification to LEC because, as a result of the changes to its planned facility, LEC no longer required either the WQM permit or the industrial wastewater discharge portion of its NPDES permit. In light of these changes, all parties moved to dismiss Sierra Club’s appeal. After the EHB dismissed the appeal, Sierra Club petitioned for attorneys’ fees and litigation costs from DEP under section 307(b) of the Clean Steams Law, which the EHB denied after holding an evidentiary hearing on the fee petition. Read More »

Two recent decisions from two different states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, suggest that courts are becoming increasingly skeptical of landowners seeking to capitalize on oil and gas companies utilizing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to access resources under the property of the landowners. Read More »

In a back and forth battle with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Arizona regarding the scope of judicial power under RCRA, the Ninth Circuit last week reopened three interest groups’ citizen suit claims against the U.S. Forest Service. In Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Serv., No. 17-15790, 2019 WL 2293425 (9th Cir. May 30, 2019), the plaintiffs allege that the use of lead ammunition creates an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment in the Kaibab National Forest, which borders Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona. Reversing the district court, the Ninth Circuit held that the controversy is justiciable because it would allow the district court to issue meaningful injunctive relief and not merely an advisory opinion. Read More »

On April 9, 2019, Judge John Z. Lee of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division denied the City of Evanston’s motion for a preliminary injunction against two utility companies in a RCRA action that sought to compel the utility companies to investigate and remediate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the area.  After a lengthy evidentiary hearing spanning eight days, Judge Lee found that the city had failed to meet its overall burden of proving likelihood of success on the merits, in part because he believed one of the city’s main theories of contamination to be “simplistic.”  (Memorandum Opinion and Order, at *4, City of Evanston v. Northern Illinois Gas Company, No. 16 C 5692 at *19 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2019)). And on May 16, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a similar decision in Varlen Corporation v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, No. 17-3212 (7th Cir. May 16, 2019), excluding an expert witness and granting summary judgment to the defendant because the expert's testimony regarding the cause of contamination was found to be unreliable, having failed to meet the Daubert standard. Read More »

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order refusing to hear an appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s holding 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., 196 A.3d 677 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2018).  Read More »

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected all but one of the Environmental Defense Foundation’s (“EDF”) challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) rulemaking implementing a statutory mandate to update the chemical substances inventory under the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2692. See Envtl. Def. Fund. v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 17-1201, 2019 WL 1867846 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 26, 2019). Read More »

In yet another installment of the long-running Dico case, on April 11, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed a district court’s $11 million judgment against Dico, Inc., and Titan Tire Corporation, two related entities of Titan International Inc. United States v. Dico Inc., No. 17-3462 (8th Cir. Apr. 11, 2019). The judgment was based on the finding that the entities were “arrangers” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) when they sold contaminated buildings to an unaware buyer in what the Court determined was an intentional act to rid themselves of environmental obligations to safely dispose of PCBs. Read More »

Last week, the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision held that in the maritime toxic tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when its product requires asbestos components to be subsequently incorporated into the product for it to properly function.  Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. DeVries, No. 17-1104, slip op. at 9-10 (U.S. Mar. 19, 2019).  The products at issue – shipping components including pumps, blowers, and turbines – required the addition of asbestos insulation or asbestos parts to properly function.  The plaintiffs, two Navy veterans, were exposed to asbestos in the shipping components, and alleged that this exposure caused them to develop cancer.  Although the Supreme Court’s decision is limited to the maritime toxic tort context, the DeVries decision will nevertheless cause many product manufacturers pause as they consider their obligations for issuing appropriate warnings for products that they know will ultimately have asbestos or other hazardous materials integrated into the product before it reaches an end-user. Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the MDL court in In re Gold King Mine Release denied response contractors’ motions to dismiss. No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 1282997 (D. N.M. March 20, 2019) (slip opn.). The 2015 Gold King Mine release sent over three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. In the wake of the spill, the State of New Mexico, the State of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and multiple individual plaintiffs filed suit against the mine’s owner, the federal government, EPA, and EPA response contractors, Weston Solutions, Inc. and Environmental Restoration, LLCC (the “Response Contractors”). The court’s opinion, which allows the majority of plaintiffs’ CERCLA and tort claims to move forward, comes on the heels of a similar order denying the Federal Government’s motions to dismiss. See In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). Our blog post discussing that earlier opinion and order can be found here.    Read More »

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 »