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Showing 20 posts in Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit and held that Section 717f(h) of the Natural Gas Act authorizes Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificate holders to “condemn all necessary rights-of-way, including land in which the State holds an interest.” See PennEast Pipeline Co., LLC v. New Jersey, Slip Op. No. 19-1039, (June 29, 2021). This holding is consistent with history and precedent regarding the superior power of federal eminent domain. Read More »

On June 25, 2021, the Supreme Court, reversing the Tenth Circuit, held that a small refinery that had previously received an exemption from certain requirements of the renewable fuel standard (“RFS”) program was eligible for an extension of that exemption, even if it had had a lapse in coverage in previous years. See HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC, v. Renewable Fuels Association, et al., Slip Op. 20-472 (June 25, 2021). Petitioners, three small fuel refineries, had each applied for a hardship exemption under the RFS program, and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) had granted each request. Those exemptions were then challenged by a group of renewable fuel producers. The Tenth Circuit ultimately sided with the renewable fuel producers, holding that because each refinery had allowed its previously held exemption to lapse at times in the past, each was no longer eligible to receive an extension of the original exemption. After hearing oral argument in April 2021, the Supreme Court reversed the Tenth Circuit and held that the text of the statute does not require that the exemption be continually held in order to remain valid. Read More »

On May 17, 2021, the Supreme Court vacated an appellate court decision which had remanded to state court an action seeking to hold petroleum companies liable for the effects of climate change, finding that the appellate court impermissibly restricted the scope of its review of a district court’s order. Although, as noted by the Supreme Court, “[t]he only question before us is one of civil procedure,” the case of BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Docket No. 19-1189 (May 17, 2021) may have a profound practical impact on ongoing environmental litigation. Read More »

Less than a month after hearing oral arguments, the United States Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Guam v. United States, Docket No. 20-382 (May 24, 2021), the eagerly anticipated opinion on whether consent decrees and administrative orders that do not expressly resolve liability for claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) nevertheless give rise to a claim for contribution under Section 113(f)(3) of CERCLA. The issue is a crucial one and has been the subject of numerous court opinions because of the short, three-year limitations period for contribution actions. The opinion, which the Court intended to provide clarity in the area, holds that only settlements that release “CERCLA-specific liability” trigger the right to contribution. Read More »

Reversing the Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court on Monday issued its opinion in United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, No. 18-1584 (June 15, 2020). In a 7-2 decision, Justice Thomas wrote for the majority that the Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s passage through United States National Forest land is best viewed as a grant of an easement to the National Park Service rather than a transfer of ownership of the underlying land. In doing so, the Court upheld the Forest Service’s right to permit a pipeline to run beneath the Trail under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). Read More »

Today, the Supreme Court altered Clean Water Act jurisprudence when it vacated and remanded a closely-watched Ninth Circuit decision which pertained to the federal government’s authority to oversee of the migration of pollution through groundwater to navigable waters. See County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al., No. 18-260, 590 U.S. ____ (Apr. 23, 2020). In writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Breyer presented the central issue of the litigation as “whether the [Clean Water] Act ‘requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source,’ here, ‘groundwater.’” Id. at 1 (internal citations omitted). The Court held that a permit issued under the Clean Water Act is required “if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” Id. Because the “functional equivalent” standard is slightly amorphous, the Court introduced several factors to aid courts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the regulated community in making permitting determinations. See Breyer Factors, below. Read More »

In a highly anticipated decision, on April 20, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state courts may award restoration damages to landowners who seek, under state law, a more expensive cleanup than that selected by EPA, but as potentially responsible parties under CERCLA they must first receive EPA’s approval of their alternative cleanup plan before they would be entitled to those damages. Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, et al., No. 17-1498 (U.S. Apr. 20, 2020). Beyond its fact-specific holding, the opinion’s broader implications may have a significant impact on CERCLA cleanups and litigation going forward.   Read More »

On June 21, 2019, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, shaking up Fifth Amendment takings claim jurisprudence. Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019). In Knick, the Court held that a property owner has an actionable Fifth Amendment takings claim at the moment a state or local government takes her property without paying just compensation, and that violation of the Fifth Amendment can be remedied in federal court via a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The ruling overturned years of precedent that held that a plaintiff could not bring a takings claim in federal court against a state or local government until she had first exhausted her state court remedies. Knick specifically overruled Williamson County, the 1985 case which established the state-litigation requirement. Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). Read More »

Last month, a bare majority of the Supreme Court held in Kisor v. Wilkie, No. 18-15, 588 U.S. ___, that federal courts should still defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulations, a practice known as Auer deference, but only sometimes. In doing so, the Supreme Court narrowed the circumstances in which Auer deference is warranted by adopting a new five-part test that must be satisfied for it to apply. The decision has important ramifications for environmental practitioners because of the significance of regulations in environmental law. Read More »

Last week, the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision held that in the maritime toxic tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when its product requires asbestos components to be subsequently incorporated into the product for it to properly function.  Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. DeVries, No. 17-1104, slip op. at 9-10 (U.S. Mar. 19, 2019).  The products at issue – shipping components including pumps, blowers, and turbines – required the addition of asbestos insulation or asbestos parts to properly function.  The plaintiffs, two Navy veterans, were exposed to asbestos in the shipping components, and alleged that this exposure caused them to develop cancer.  Although the Supreme Court’s decision is limited to the maritime toxic tort context, the DeVries decision will nevertheless cause many product manufacturers pause as they consider their obligations for issuing appropriate warnings for products that they know will ultimately have asbestos or other hazardous materials integrated into the product before it reaches an end-user. Read More »