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Showing 17 posts in EPA.

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 »

Do indirect discharges of pollutants into navigable waters amount to a violation of the Clean Water Act? On February 1st, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al. v. County of Maui, No. 15-17447, that discharges of pollutants originating from a point source violate the Clean Water Act even if the pollutants first enter another means of conveyance—in this case groundwater—before entering into a navigable waterway. Despite recent EPA efforts to roll back certain environmental regulations, the court gave no deference to EPA’s amicus curiae proposed liability rule requiring a “direct hydrological connection” between the point source and the navigable water. 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 »

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 »

UPDATE: 

This past Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit delayed for two weeks its mandate which required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift its 90-day stay on portions of its methane rule for new oil and gas infrastructure.  The Court issued the mandate after determining that the EPA lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to issue the stay on the Obama-era regulations as further discussed in the original blog post below.  The order delaying the mandate indicates that the Court is providing EPA with time to “determine whether to seek panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or pursue other relief” with respect to the mandate.  Thus, the methane rule is again on hold for the next several weeks while EPA decides whether and how to challenge the Court’s lifting of the 90-day stay.     

ORIGINAL POST:

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down a 90-day stay imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on portions of its methane rule for new oil and gas infrastructure, finding the agency lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to issue the stay. Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, No. 17-1145 (D.C. Cir. July 3, 2017).  The methane rule, which establishes “New Source Performance Standards” for fugitive emissions of methane and other pollutants by the oil and natural gas industries, was finalized in June 2016 by the Obama administration.  Notably, the Court’s 2-1 decision puts back into effect the June 3, 2017 deadline for regulated entities to conduct an initial monitoring survey to identify leaks from equipment. Read More »

One of the finest lines that environmental attorneys walk is in protecting communications between counsel and a retained environmental consultant from disclosure in litigation.  In a recent case out of the Northern District of Indiana, Valley Forge Ins. Co. v. Hartford Iron & Metal, Inc., No. 1:14-cv-00006 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 14, 2017), the Court found that communications between counsel and consultants retained by the counsel  were not protected by the attorney-client privilege, in large part because the consultants also performed remedial work.  However, as the work was done "in anticipation of litigation" with, among others, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and EPA, substantive communications were protected by the attorney work product doctrine.   Read More »

In the recent decision of United States of America v. Boston and Maine Corporation, C.A. No. 13-10087-IT (D. Mass. Sept. 22, 2016), a Massachusetts federal judge ruled that issuance of a ROD was the completion date of a removal action for statute of limitations purposes even though the actual remedial activities had been completed nearly 13 years earlier.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court also examined the often vexing distinction between removal and remedial activities and the question of what constitutes a “facility” under CERCLA. Given the posture of the case, the decision may also serve to underscore the deference courts often afford to the federal government when it, rather than a private party, is seeking to recover costs.    Read More »

Earlier this month, a Michigan federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a coalition of plaintiffs seeking to force multiple city and state defendants to fix the city of Flint, Michigan’s water supply system.  The lawsuit arose from the crisis regarding lead contamination in Flint’s water supply, which has garnered national attention.  In the decision, Concerned Pastors for Soc. Action v. Khouri, No. 16-10277 (E.D. Mich. July 7, 2016), U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson rejected numerous attacks asserted by the defendants in a motion to dismiss.  Perhaps most notably, the judge rejected the argument that the federal court should defer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) primary jurisdiction under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).    Read More »

Last week, the United States Supreme Court held that federal courts can review the Army Corps of Engineers’ determinations that a landowner’s property contains “waters of the United States” and is therefore subject to the Clean Water Act’s regulations and permitting process.  Remarkably, the decision was unanimous in affirming the Eighth Circuit’s decision that such determinations are considered final agency actions under the Administrative Procedures Act and are therefore reviewable by the courts.  The majority opinion in the case, United States Army Corps of Eng'rs v. Hawkes Co., No. 15-290 (U.S. May 31, 2016), was authored by Chief Justice Roberts while Justices Kennedy, Kagan, and Ginsberg each authored separate concurring opinions.   Read More »

Early this month, the Second Circuit heard oral argument in Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Inc. v. United States EPA, No. 14-1823, an appeal from the Southern District of New York’s March 2014 ruling which invalidated the “water transfer” exemption rule from National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting requirements.  A decision from the Second Circuit, which will have far reaching effects on public and private entities alike, is expected in 2016. Read More »