Real Property & Environmental Law Alert

Real Property & Environmental Law Alert

Transactional Real Estate, Development/Redevelopment & Environmental Law

Tag Archives: Water Pollution

“Removal vs. Remedial Action? – That is the Question” Second Circuit Answers “Removal” and Vacates District Court’s Grant of Dismissal on CERCLA Statute of Limitations Grounds in State of New York v. Next Millenium Realty, LLC

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
Environmental attorneys have long wrestled with the issue of whether particular clean-up activities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) fall under the statute of limitations for remedial actions, considered to be permanent responsive action, or for removals, considered to be interim remedial measures to address immediate threats to public health. In a governmental cost recovery action, guessing wrong can deprive a federal or state governmental entity of its ability to recover its clean up costs from Potentially Responsible Parties. In State of New York v. Next Millenium Realty, LLC, the Second Circuit vacated the District Court's determination, holding that once an activity is instituted as a removal, it remains a removal until completion, even if it is incorporated into the final permanent remedy… Continue Reading

Another Edition of “No Addition”: Supreme Court Applies Precedent to Confirm Plaintiffs’ Concession That Movement of Water Within River Channel Was Not a “Discharge”

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
The answer you get depends on the question you ask. That's the take-home lesson from the Supreme Court's decision in Los Angeles Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council. All parties agreed on the answer to the specific question on which the Court granted certiorari. The Court, applying its own 2004 precedent, said they were correct -- there was no "discharge" that violated the District's permit because the flows in question simply went from one part of the same river system to another. The Court never reached the alternative ground for liability urged by the plaintiffs because it went beyond that narrow question. The result? A reversal and a win for the District on essentially procedural grounds… Continue Reading

EPA Seeks Outside Reviewers for Draft Report That Showed Groundwater Contamination from Fracking

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
In December, we reported on the release of a draft report from United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development on a possible link between groundwater contamination in some Wyoming wells and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") activity in the area. Now, as promised, EPA is initiating an independent assessment of the report by outside peer reviewers… Continue Reading

EPA Report Points to Fracking as Possible Source of Groundwater Contamination

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
A draft report from United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development has tentatively pointed a finger at hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") as a cause of groundwater contamination detected in a number of wells near the town of Pavillion, Wyoming. The report, which has not yet undergone outside peer review, is likely to set off alarm bells among both proponents and opponents of fracking, including those in eastern states like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania… Continue Reading

Either/Or: Third Circuit Reads Rapanos as Establishing Two Alternative Tests for Federal Regulatory Jurisdiction Over Wetlands

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
The Clean Water Act regulates the placement of fill into the "waters of the United States." That term has come to include wetlands -- or at least some wetlands. The Supreme Court's last attempt, in Rapanos v. United States, to clarify which wetlands fall within the statute's coverage caused great confusion, as the five Justices who agreed on the judgment (a four-Justice plurality led by Justice Scalia, and Justice Kennedy, who concurred separately) generated two separate tests for jurisdiction. Which test should lower courts apply? In an opinion released on October 31, the Third Circuit said, "both" -- if the wetlands in question satisfy either Justice Scalia's test or Justice Kennedy's test, they fall within the statute's reach… Continue Reading

NJ Proposes to Ban decaBDE Flame Retardant in Products

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
In February and May of 2011, the New Jersey legislature induced identical bills in the Senate (S 2722) and Assembly (A3915) to ban the manufacture and sale of products containing decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). DecaBDEs are used in plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, back coatings for draperies and upholstery. Growing concerns over the connection between decaBDEs and liver, thyroid and neurodevelopmental toxicity have lead a number of states, countries, as well as the European Union to institute bans… Continue Reading

Updated Guidance From USEPA Concerning Brownfield Redevelopment

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
Encouraging development of environmentally challenged real estate -- brownfields -- is usually the task of state agencies. In New Jersey the Office of Smart Growth; the Economic Development Authority and the Department of Environmental Protection all offer programs intended to encourage redevelopment of brownfields. However, states are struggling to fund and support their brownfield programs and funds for outreach to potential developers and their allied professionals are in short supply… Continue Reading

Proving Liability for Clean-Up Costs – Nexus; Circumstances and Experts – Lessons from Dimant and DVL

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
On May 18, 2011, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a trial court's decision that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had failed to establish sufficient "nexus" or connection between the operator of a dry cleaner and regional groundwater contamination. In New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Dimant, et al., (Docket A-3180-09T2), the Appellate Division soundly rejected New Jersey's claim that "the Spill Act must be interpreted and applied very broadly to find that any discharge at any time, even a de minimis one, imposes liability on all operators handling that product, and that a direct causal connection between the discharge and the damages need not be established." This sort of argument which asks the court to overlook critical connections is all too common in environmental cases. Indeed, governmental plaintiffs often invoke policy reasons when asking for relaxed nexus requirements whereas private parties seeking contribution frequently call on the courts to shift the burden to the alleged dischargers… Continue Reading

Paper Companies That “Created, Mobilized and Profited From” PCBs Must Bear 100% of Cleanup Costs in Fox River CERCLA Case, But May Not Be Liable for PCBs in Waste Paper Sold to Recyclers

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
The other shoe dropped on February 28 in the closely watched CERCLA case involving PCB contamination of the Fox River in Wisconsin. District Judge William C. Griesbach, who had previously ruled that the paper companies that made and discharged PCBs to the river could not seek contribution from recycling mills that unknowingly bought PCB-laden waste paper, called "broke," and also discharged PCBs, held that those companies must reimburse those comparatively innocent companies for 100% of the costs they have incurred for most of the polluted river. But he held that it was too early to say whether the paper companies knew, and did, enough, to make them liable for "arranging for" disposal of the PCBs that ended up in the recycling mills' discharges to an upstream stretch of the river… Continue Reading

The Fox River Cleanup Snares Insurers, Passaic River PRPs Should Take Note

Posted in Environmental & Green Issues
On June 8, 2010, in Westport Insurance Co. v. Appleton Papers, Inc., the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for the First District held that two insurers, namely Munich Re Ag and Westport Insurance Co., are liable each for $5 million dollars to compensate Appleton Papers, Inc. (Appleton) for cleaning up the sediment contamination in the Fox River. The Fox River is undergoing a cleanup pursuant to oversight by the United States Environmental Protection Agency… Continue Reading
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