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Showing 75 posts in Remediation.

There are surprisingly few cases addressing whether, for an entity to be liable as an arranger under CERCLA, it must have known that the disposed substance was dangerous or hazardous. On March 10, 2022, in City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County v. The Lofts at Alameda, LLC, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico became the third federal district court to answer this question directly.

Two local government entities sued American Linen for cost recovery and contribution, alleging its decades-long operation of dry cleaning facilities caused them to incur costs to remediate a plume of contaminated groundwater. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that American Linen instructed its employees to dispose of PCE-laden wastes off site and that it contracted with a truck hauler to transport these wastes to a dump site three miles away. American Linen moved to dismiss, arguing principally that at the time of disposal, it did not know the wastes were hazardous substances. Read More »

What happens when a property owner agrees with a regulator and a prior owner/operator to accept a commercial-level clean-up with institutional controls, but before the remediation is complete and the deed restriction recorded, a new owner takes title and insists on a clean-up to residential standards? Under New Jersey’s Industrial Site Remediation Act (ISRA), who wins? The remediating party, ruled the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, on December 7, 2021, in an unpublished decision captioned Cozzoli Machine Company v. Crown Real Estate Holdings, Inc., No. A-1733-19. Read More »

On December 2, 2021, addressing issues related to the definition of “disposal” and compliance with the National Contingency Plan (“NCP”) in a claim brought under Section 107 of CERCLA, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied both Plaintiff Stanford University’s (“Stanford”) motion for summary judgment and Defendant Agilent Technologies, Inc.’s (“Agilent”) cross motion for summary judgment. See Bd. of Trs. of the Leland Stanford Junior Univ. v. Agilent Techs., Inc., Slip Op. (N.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2021). The Court denied Stanford’s motion because there was a genuine dispute about whether HP spread PCB contaminated soil over uncontaminated areas of Stanford’s property and Stanford failed to show that it incurred costs consistent with the NCP. Id.  The court denied HP’s cross motion because, although incurred in connection with redevelopment of the property, Stanford’s clean-up costs were “necessary” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(4)(B) and, separately, because a genuine dispute existed as to whether Stanford consented to the disposal of hazardous material on its property. Id. Read More »

On September 3, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, vacated the lower court’s determination that liability for remediating the environmental harm associated with a groundwater plume was divisible under Section 107 of CERCLA. In Von Duprin LLC v. Major Holdings, LLC, the environmental harm stemmed from a groundwater plume created from decades of known pollution involving four parcels and primarily four parties. No. 20-1711 (7th Cir. Sept. 3, 2021). As we reported here, the trial court’s apportionment of liability appeared to intermingle factors relevant to both an allocation and apportionment of liability. The appellate court found the same, and vacated the trial court’s apportionment of liability due in part to the apparent application of factors relevant to an allocation of joint liability. At a threshold level, the appellate court also vacated the trial court’s determination at summary judgment that a reasonable basis existed to apportion liability based on causal factors, rather than allocate joint liability based on equitable factors. The appellate court affirmed, however, the trial court’s holdings related to the bona fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) defense, compliance with the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and the admission of expert testimony. Read More »

On August 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued yet another decision rejecting the government’s effort to avoid responsibility for cleanup costs stemming from the plaintiff oil companies’ World War II-era, government-ordered production of aviation fuel. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. United States, No. 20-1784. This time, the government argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute, and that plaintiff Texaco’s predecessor and the government entered into a mutual release foreclosing the instant liability. Read More »

On August 4, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rebuked the government’s “overly technical” attempt under res judicata to avoid responsibility for cleanup costs stemming from the large-scale production of aviation fuel as part of the World War II effort. Shell Oil Co. v. United States (No. 20-2221). “In doing so,” the Court explained, it “hope[d] to put an end to the government’s continued resistance to making payments . . . it is obligated to make.” Read More »

On March 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a ruling denying in part the summary judgment motion of Defendants Ingersoll-Rand and Trane U.S., against whom Plaintiff FIP Realty Co. brought various claims related to the historic release of VOCs on a site now owned by Plaintiff. See Fip Realty Co. v. Ingersoll-Rand Plc, No. 2:19-cv-03291. After acquiring the site out of receivership in 2010, Plaintiff retained several environmental consulting firms and undertook voluntary remediation efforts pursuant to the Ohio Voluntary Action Program (VAP). Six years later Plaintiff submitted a No Further Action (NFA) letter to the Ohio EPA, which in turn issued a Final Order and Covenant releasing Plaintiff from liability at the site as a result of its successful remediation. In 2019 Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit seeking to recover remediation costs under CERCLA Sections 107(a) and 113(f)(3)(B), and to obtain a declaratory judgment under Section 113(g)(2) that Defendants are liable for all future costs. Defendants moved for summary judgment on various issues, two of which are the subject of disagreement among the federal appellate courts. Read More »

The First Circuit recently affirmed the District of Rhode Island’s approval of a superfund consent decree entered into between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the State of Rhode Island and several Potentially Responsible Parties despite opposition by third party PRPs that the settlement was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). Emhart Indus., Inc. v. CNA Holdings LLC, No. 19-1563, slip op. (1st Cir. 2021 Feb. 17, 2021). What makes this case unique, and bolstered the arguments of the objectors, is that the settlement incorporated work pursuant to a ROD that the District Court had already determined has not been selected in accordance with law. Nevertheless, both the District Court and the First Circuit held that the finding did not preclude the settlement, leaving the objectors exposed to contribution claims for a remedy potentially inconsistent with the National Contingency Plan (“NCP”). In affirming the lower court, the First Circuit highlighted the “integral part” that early settlement plays in CERCLA’s statutory scheme, thus giving deference to the settling parties. Read More »

On August 19, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued what it hoped was “the third, and should be the last, opinion in these environmental pollution cases arising from World War II and the Korean War.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. United States, Nos. H-10-2386 & H-11-1814, slip op. at 1 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 19, 2020). The court’s decision provides a unique window into an allocation for recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), a process more often conducted in private alternative dispute arrangements among potentially liable parties. Read More »

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 »