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Showing 31 posts from 2020.

On September 14, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that speculative, potential future response costs are not recoverable in a contribution action under CERCLA, even if the party seeking contribution has already made an expenditure for such costs pursuant to a settlement. The response costs at issue in ASARCO LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co, No. 18-35934, D.C. No. 6:12-cv-00053-DLC (9th Cir. Sept. 14, 2020) were part of a cash-out bankruptcy settlement that resolved plaintiff ASARCO LLC’s liability for several contaminated sites. Only a portion of the settlement funds paid by ASARCO had been spent on remediating the site in question, with the rest held in trust to address future potential response costs. Although the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s allocation of 25 percent of the cleanup responsibility to the defendant, Atlantic Richfield, it vacated and remanded the district court’s decision with respect to the future costs. Read More »

Last week the Third Circuit held that Combustion Equipment Associates, Inc. n/k/a Carter Day Industries, Inc. (“Carter Day”) was not protected from a contribution claim brought by Compaction Systems Corporation of Connecticut, Inc. and Compaction Systems Corporation (collectively, “Compaction”) for amounts Compaction was obligated to pay to the United States despite Carter Day having resolving its liability to the State of New Jersey for the same site. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. American Thermoplastics Corporation, et al., Nos. 18-2865 & 19-2243 (3d. Cir. Sept. 8, 2020). At issue was whether the settlement agreement between Carter Day and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) addressed the same “matter” as the contribution claim brought by Compaction for response costs at the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (the “Combe Fill Site” or “Site”). Read More »

The Federal Tort Claims Act permits claims for monetary damages against the United States for injury or loss of property caused by the wrongful acts of federal employees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). However, this waiver of sovereign immunity is limited by the discretionary function exception, which preserves immunity for claims “based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit analyzed the discretionary function exception in the context of environmental contamination, finding that the exception does not apply to what can best be described as ordinary negligence in the performance of a site remediation. Nanouk v. United States, No. 13-35116 (Sept. 4, 2020). Read More »

Earlier this week the Eleventh Circuit issued a published decision in Pinares v. United Technology Corporation, No. 18-15104, slip op. (11th Cir. Aug. 31, 2020), affirming the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Pratt & Whitney, dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims as time-barred. In doing so, the Court held that the personal injury tolling provision in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) does not apply to public liability actions brought pursuant to the Price-Anderson Act (“PAA”) or to claims styled under state law based on injuries from radiation exposure. Thus, the lawsuit pursued by Joselyn and Steve Santiago alleging that Pratt & Whitney was liable for their deceased daughter Cynthia Santiago’s cancer was time barred. Read More »

On August 10, 2020, the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgement, permitting plaintiffs’ case to move forward in a Superfund action for contribution. See Arconic v. APC Investment, No. 19-55181 (9th Cir. Aug. 10, 2020), a case we had reported on here. At issue was whether a settlement between plaintiffs and certain de minimis parties for future potential response costs was an adequate triggering event for the statute of limitations period (against different defendants) in an action for contribution under CERCLA Section 113(f). The Ninth Circuit held that it was not, explaining that in the context of a “judicially approved settlement,” the proper triggering event was a settlement which imposed actual cleanup costs in excess of a party’s estimated liability at the site. Read More »

The D.C. Circuit recently held that EPA was not required to consider mitigation measures taken at a site when determining whether to add the site to the National Priorities List (“NPL”) under CERCLA. Meritor, Inc. v. EPA, No. 18-1325, 2020 WL 4299124 (D.C. Cir. July 28, 2020).

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) conducted a study of indoor air quality at the Rockwell International Wheel & Trim facility (the “Site”), located in Mississippi, and discovered elevated concentrations of toluene, trichloroethylene (“TCE”), and cis-1,2-dichloroethene (“DCE”) in the main building at the Site. In 2017, Meritor, Inc. (“Meritor”), which inherited liability for contamination at the Site, conducted a subsurface investigation beneath the main building and uncovered elevated levels of toluene and TCE. In that same year, Meritor installed a sub-slab depressurization system designed to mitigate the impacts of vapor intrusion in the main building. In 2018, notwithstanding Meritor’s mitigation efforts, EPA added the Site to the NPL based on vapor intrusion impacts. Read More »

In late July 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss in a case involving releases of uranium radiation and other non-radioactive waste onto plaintiffs’ property. See Op. and Order, McGlone v. Centrus Energy Corp., et al., Case No. 2:19-cv-02196 (S.D. Ohio, July 31, 2020). Claims involving the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and the Price-Anderson Act and were dismissed for failing to state a claim, while most state law tort claims for releases of non-radioactive waste were permitted to move forward, the court clarifying that medical monitoring exists as a form of damages under Ohio law and not as a separate claim. Read More »

In MPM Silicones, LLC v. Union Carbide Corporation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that there can be more than one “remedial action” at a site under certain circumstances for the purpose of determining the statute of limitations under CERCLA. Dkt. No. 17-3468(L), 17-3669(XAP) (2d Cir. 2019). The decision clarified a statement in a prior decision by the Second Circuit that had suggested otherwise. Read More »

Content for this post was provided by Isabel Teuton, a MGKF summer associate.

In National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Schueckler, 2020 WL 3453939 (N.Y. June 25, 2020),the State of New York Court of Appeals held that the issuance of a certificate of convenience and necessity by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) exempted the holder of the certificate from complying with the public notice and hearing requirements of New York’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) even where the certificate holder had not yet met other conditions attached to the certificate. The Court reasoned that since FERC placed no condition on the vested eminent domain power granted with the certificate and had completed its mandated analysis of the pipeline’s effect on the public interest, there was a valid exemption from further review under EDPL 206(A), thus permitting the condemnation to move forward. Read More »

Last week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential opinion reversing the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision granting a Motion to Dismiss a complaint filed by homeowners concerning alleged odors and air contaminants emanating from the Bethlehem landfill, thus reviving the case. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co., No. 19-1692, slip op. (3d. Cir. July 13, 2020). In doing so, the Court found that a class of Pennsylvania homeowners allegedly affected by landfill odors may bring suit under theories of negligence, public nuisance and private nuisance. Read More »