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Showing 56 posts in Cleanup.

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 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 »

In a recent decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that a party who has, without reservation, affirmatively invoked an arbitration provision has waived the right to argue that the provision is unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act. The case, PolyOne Corp. v. Westlake Vinyls, Inc., No. 19-5137 (6th Cir. Sep. 6, 2019), dealt with a "unique" agreement partially resolving claims relating to the remediation of an industrial site, known as the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site, in Calvert City, Kentucky. 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 »

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 »

In an opinion and order released last week, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico denied the federal government’s motions to dismiss claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). The district court was not convinced by the government’s argument that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the plaintiffs’ complaints were inadequate. It denied the motions and allowed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to discovery. Read More »

In an unpublished opinion, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that the Government was not liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) for remediation costs incurred at a former defense site. PPG Indus., Inc. v. United States, No. 12-3526, 2018 WL 6168623 (D.N.J. Nov. 26, 2018). Last year we reported on TDY Holdings v. United States, in which the Ninth Circuit rejected a zero percent liability allocation to the government for remediation costs incurred at a former aeronautical manufacturing plant. In PPG Industries, the District of New Jersey found that the Government’s general wartime control over a New Jersey chromite facility was insufficient by itself to impose liability absent a direct connection between the Government and waste disposal activities. The District Court’s decision highlights a hurdle for private parties hoping to hold the government responsible for cleanup costs incurred at former defense sites. Read More »

Reminding all Superfund practitioners that while the application of allocation principles and factors may be flexible it is not without boundaries, on September 11, 2018, the Third Circuit filed an opinion vacating and remanding a District Court’s equitable allocation of cleanup costs because the lower court’s methodology resulted in an allocation that was too “speculative.” Trinity Indus., Inc. v. Greenlease Holding Co., No. 16-1994, 2018 WL 4324261, at *12 (3d Cir. Sept. 11, 2018).  The Court pointed to two "mathematical" errors in the District Court’s analysis, and noted that although courts do not have to be perfectly precise in their calculations, they must be able to demonstrate a solid mathematical foundation for arriving at their final number. The ruling also offered guidance for the lower court on an appropriate methodology and application of certain equitable factors. This guidance could prove helpful for other practitioners in this area of the law regarding what the Third Circuit would deem non-speculative, and therefore acceptable. Read More »

The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution preserves the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which shields state governments and their agencies from federal litigation that seeks money damages or equitable relief.  In general, a state government can only be sued if sovereign immunity is expressly waived by statute.  For example, nearly every state and the federal government have enacted a “torts claims act” that abrogates sovereign immunity for certain claims based on the negligence of government employees, and states that accept federal funding are also not immune from federal discrimination suits.  Where no waiver exists, the doctrine of sovereign immunity is broad and provides a shield to environmental suits, including claims under the federal Comprehensive, Environmental, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), as the Fifth Circuit recently affirmed in United States Oil Recovery Site Potentially Responsible Parties Group v. Railroad Comm’n of Texas, et al., Dkt. No. 17-20361, __ F. 3d __, (5th Cir., Aug. 1, 2018).  Read More »

Last month, in U.S. v. CITGO Petro. Corp., 711 Fed. Appx. 237 (5th Cir. 2017), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed an $81 million civil penalty assessment under the federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”) against CITGO Petroleum Corp. (“CITGO”), for unpermitted wastewater discharges from its plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana when a severe rainstorm caused two storage tanks to fail and over 2 million gallons of oil to be discharged into local waterways.  In the underlying case before the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, CITGO conceded liability, and therefore, the only issue for trial was the total penalty to be assessed.  After a two-week bench trial, the District Court determined that CITGO had failed to properly maintain its wastewater storage tanks and allowed sludge and waste oil to accumulate in the tanks, which lessened their total storage capacity and ability to withstand a storm surge.  The District Court ultimately assessed a $6 million civil penalty against CITGO, which EPA appealed.  Read More »