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Showing 11 posts in California.

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 »

In an opinion issued on March 24, 2020, the District Court for the District of Delaware held that pre-petition environmental fines accrued by Exide Technologies were dischargeable debts in Exide’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case and that penalties that Exide accrued during the pendency of its bankruptcy case were not entitled to administrative priority. South Coast Air Quality Management District v. Exide Technologies, Civ. No. 19-891 (D. Del. March 24, 2020). The case suggests that environmental penalties assessed against a corporation, even if premised in part upon false reporting, may be dischargeable in a bankruptcy case and further, that additional penalties not based on cleanup costs during the bankruptcy will not receive special treatment by the courts. Read More »

In 2015, a pipeline in Santa Barbara County, California ruptured and leaked oil, some of which made its way to the ocean and eventually washed up on local beaches. A class of plaintiffs brought an action in federal district court against defendants Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., and Plains Pipeline L.P. (“Plains”) for claims of statutory violations, negligence, public nuisance, continuing private nuisance, nuisance per se, and trespass. In response, Plains filed a motion for summary judgment which sought to have the claims of the Property Subclass plaintiffs dismissed, primarily on the basis that the harm caused by the oil spill was a “temporary diminution in property value,” and not recoverable as a matter of law.

Last week, Judge Gutierrez of the District Court for the Central District of California issued an order denying most of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, thereby allowing the litigation to continue. See Keith Andrews et al v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. et al., CV 15-4113 PSG (JEMx) (Mar. 17, 2020). The court held that several of plaintiffs’ claims contained genuine issues of material fact that should be brought before a jury, and that it could not rule as a matter of law that plaintiffs had not suffered harm. The claims which merited the most analysis in the order were the common law property claims, i.e.: negligence, nuisance, and trespass. 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 »

The Ninth Circuit recently reversed a grant of summary judgment by the United States District Court for the Central District of California in California Department of Toxic Substances Control v. Westside Delivery, LLC, No. 16-56558, 2018 WL 1973715 (9th Cir. Apr. 27, 2018), holding that a defendant who purchased real property at a tax sale had a “contractual relationship” with the previous owner “in connection with” the polluting activities, and therefore was not entitled to a third-party defense under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). In this case, California’s environmental agency, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), sought to recover clean up costs from a subsequent owner of the contaminated property and the owner asserted as a defense, recognized under CERCLA, that the contamination was caused by a third party prior to it taking title with whom it had no contractual relationship. The matter before the court was one of first impression in the Ninth Circuit: “Does a defendant who buys real property at a tax sale have a ‘contractual relationship’ with the previous owner of the property within the meaning of CERCLA?” Id. at *1. The court’s affirmative answer will give pause to prospective tax-defaulted property purchasers who may find themselves liable for cleanup costs under CERCLA. 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 »

Three public-water-system-operating California cities brought suit in the Northern District of California against Monsanto alleging that Monsanto’s manufacture and sale of PCB-containing products from the 1930s through the 1970s caused pollution that increased the cities’ cost and ability to comply with federal stormwater discharge regulations for discharge into the San Francisco Bay.  Monsanto sought to dismiss the claims and in City of San Jose v. Monsanto Company, Nos. 15-3178, 15-5152, & 16-0071 (N.D.CA. Aug. 22, 2016), the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the motion, but allowed the municipalities to amend their complaints as to their nuisance causes of action. Read More »

Several years ago we reported on Community Action & Environmental Justice v. Union Pacific Corporation, in which a California District Court held the dispersion into the air of particulate matter that reaches the ground or water did not constitute a “disposal” subject to RCRA but, instead, was subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.  That District Court opinion was affirmed in 2014, in Community Action & Environmental Justice v. Union Pacific Corporation, 764 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2014).  Yesterday, in the case of Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, No. 15-35228 (9th Cir. July 27, 2016), the Ninth Circuit expanded this analysis of the relative roles of our environmental laws by holding that a party who disperses air pollutants that eventually settle into the ground or water are not arrangers liable under CERCLA as they have not “disposed of” hazardous substances under the Act. Read More »

Last month, a district court in the Northern District of California held on motions for summary judgment that Technichem, Inc., a hazardous waste management company, was liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for PCE contamination, but that the issue of whether an employee was also considered an “operator” under CERCLA could not be resolved on summary judgment.  The case, Department of Toxic Substances Control v. Technichem, Inc. et al, Case No. 12-cv-05845-VC (N.D. Cal, March 15, 2016), was decided by United States District Judge Vince Chhabria.     Read More »

Environmental law attorneys are persistently reminded to avoid overuse of acronyms, lest we forget what they mean, and a ruling from the Southern District of California recently provided an example of why we should remember to break these acronyms down to their roots.  The Court’s opinion showed that a PRP is just that, a potentially responsible party, as it held that the United States government was 0% liable for the environmental contamination of a site, even though it was deemed a former “owner” of the facility under CERCLA. Read More »