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Showing 16 posts in Supreme Court.

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 »

On January 22, as Philadelphia Eagles fans continued to celebrate the team’s NFC Championship victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the U.S. Supreme Court was busy issuing a unanimous opinion in National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense concerning the Waters of the United States Rule (“Rule”) promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) in 2015. The Rule defines the statutory term “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act, and has been subject to appeals in both federal district courts and courts of appeals. On October 11, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument addressing whether appeals of the Rule should be filed first in either the district court or the court of appeals, and held today that because the Rule does not fall within one of the Clean Water Act’s (“Act”) seven enumerated categories of EPA actions for which the courts of appeal have jurisdiction, appeals of the Rule must first proceed in district court. Read More »

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Spill Act contribution claims against the State of New Jersey for events prior to April 1, 1977 – the date the statute was enacted – are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  This ruling places the State on an unequal footing with private parties for historic environmental liability under the Spill Act, and in effect, creates an automatic orphan share for pre-1977 sites where the State would otherwise have liability.  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 »

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Harley-Davison Motor Co. v. Springettsbury Twp., Dkt. No J-102-2014 (Sept. 29, 2015), ruled that the presence of contamination, and the stigma that surrounds such contamination, are relevant to determining the property’s fair market value for tax assessment purposes.   Read More »