Real Property & Environmental Law Alert Blog

NJBIZ Lists Patrick Dunican and Jennifer Phillips Smith  Among Its 2020 “Power 100”

NJBIZ Lists Patrick Dunican and Jennifer Phillips Smith Among Its 2020 “Power 100”

For the tenth consecutive year, NJBIZ has featured attorneys from Gibbons P.C. on its annual “Power 100” list of the most influential people in New Jersey business. Patrick C. Dunican Jr., the firm’s Chairman and Managing Director, is one of a select few people to be named to this list every year it has been published, while Jennifer Phillips Smith, a Director in the firm’s Real Property Department, makes her debut on the 2020 list. This year, NJBIZ notes of Mr. Dunican: The influence of Gibbons PC, one of the state’s biggest law firms, grew this year with the addition of an office in Red Bank. The 94-year-old Newark firm, which has a Trenton outpost that opened in 2002, expanded to Red Bank because it’s a linchpin of Monmouth County and home to some of its most significant clients—nearly half of the county’s top 10 employers are Gibbons clients. Patrick Dunican has been at the helm since 2004 and his business influence extends internationally: he was recognized in August for promoting business ties between New Jersey and Ireland by Donegal County Council with the 2019 Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award. From 2017 to 2018, exports from the Garden State to...

Governor Murphy Continues to Develop Climate Change Resiliency Strategy for New Jersey

Governor Murphy Continues to Develop Climate Change Resiliency Strategy for New Jersey

Building on his vision to develop a Statewide Climate Change Resiliency Strategy launched last year by signing Executive Order 89, on January 27, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 100 (EO 100), which the Governor’s office described in a press release as directing the “most sweeping set of climate change reforms in the nation.” The EO labels the reforms as the “Protecting Against Climate Threats” regulations, or “PACT.” EO 100 references the State’s Global Warming Response Act (“GWRA”), N.J.S.A. 26:2C-37, et seq., and the updated Energy Master Plan, which outlines seven “key strategies and includes an implementation plan that lays out next steps and timelines.” The seven key strategies are: 1) reducing energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector; 2) accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources; 3) maximizing energy efficiency and conservation, and reducing peak demand; 4) reducing energy consumption and emissions from the building sector; 5) decarbonizing and modernizing New Jersey’s energy systems; 6) supporting community energy planning and action in underserved communities; and, 7) expanding the clean energy innovation economy. It is in furtherance of these “key strategies” that EO 100 directs DEP to draft and implement “the sweeping suite of climate change regulations.”...

Join Us at the ICSC New York Deal Making Conference – December 11 & 12

Join Us at the ICSC New York Deal Making Conference – December 11 & 12

The Gibbons Real Property Department will once again exhibit at the upcoming International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) New York Deal Making Conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on December 11-12. Stop by our booth, #2411, to meet some of the Department’s attorneys who will be in attendance (Click here to view our booth location marked as the red circle). Deal Making hours are Wednesday, December 11, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Thursday, December 12, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

More Than Parking Tickets: Appellate Division Rules that New Jersey Municipal Courts Can Assess Civil Penalties for Spill Act Violations

More Than Parking Tickets: Appellate Division Rules that New Jersey Municipal Courts Can Assess Civil Penalties for Spill Act Violations

Municipal courts are typically called on to rule on such matters as parking violations and speeding tickets. Some statutes, however, give them jurisdiction over a surprising variety of actions. In its published opinion in State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Alsol Corporation, the Appellate Division held that one powerful environmental law, the Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act), grants municipal courts jurisdiction to assess civil penalties for violations of the statute, even where the department has not already gone through an administrative process to assess such penalties. DEP’s complaint against Alsol arose from an October 2016 oil spill at a property it owns in Milltown. According to factual assertions made by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the spill was the result of a contractor’s faulty demolition of three electrical transformers. Oil from the transformers, later determined to contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), spilled onto the surface and into a storm drain. The oil allegedly reached Farrington Lake and may have reached Mill Pond and Lawrence Brook, which a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Fish and Wildlife Officer closed to fishing. The complaint, filed in Milltown Municipal Court, did not allege a violation of the...

New Jersey Appellate Division Clarifies Spill Fund Lien Law &  Procedure

New Jersey Appellate Division Clarifies Spill Fund Lien Law & Procedure

In an unpublished opinion captioned In Re Spill Fund Lien, DJ No. 129570-02; 954 Route 202, the Appellate Division affirmed the final agency decision of the Spill Compensation Fund (Fund) holding that the lien filed against the property and revenues to recover remediation costs that the Fund expended in cleanup was appropriate under the New Jersey Spill Act (Spill Act). The property owner, Branch 2002 LLC (Branch), had purchased a gas station from a previous owner who was ordered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to conduct a remedial investigation and remove or treat contaminated soil from leaking underground storage tanks at the property. Ultimately, the previous owner did not conduct the required remediation, so the NJDEP oversaw remediation of the property using Fund resources. The property was later sold to Branch, with the prior owner’s insurance company indemnifying all subsequent owners for any liability arising out of the prior owner’s discharge. The Fund Administrator filed the initial lien on the property for expenditures and commitments incurred by the Fund in 2002, and then later amended this lien in 2015 to reflect additional costs expended and requested that the Superior Court Clerk enter the addresses of both...

Gibbons Real Property Department Attorney Publishes in New Jersey Law Journal

Gibbons Real Property Department Attorney Publishes in New Jersey Law Journal

Cameron W. MacLeod, an Associate in the firm’s Real Property Department, authored an article, “Finding the Outer Edges of ‘Good Faith’ in ‘Mt. Laurel’ Litigation” in this week’s New Jersey Law Journal. An excerpt from the article can be found below. To view the full article, click here. In 2015, the court directed that municipalities revise their housing elements and fair share plans “with good faith” and with “reasonable speed.” In re: N.J.A.C. 5:96 & 5:97, 221 N.J. 1, 33 (2015). Now, four and a half years later, the question of what constitutes “good faith” in these constitutional compliance cases is paramount, as the trial courts are now faced with whether a municipality’s housing element and fair share plan are consistent with the Mount Laurel obligations. The recent trial court decision in In re Englewood Cliffs, as well as the 2016 decision from Judge Wolfson in In the Matter of the Application of South Brunswick, both demonstrate what steps are necessary to establish “good faith” in these cases. Of the 300-plus declaratory judgment actions commenced in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in In re: N.J.A.C. 5:96 & 5:97, 221 N.J. 1 (2015), many have now settled, or are...

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Addressing Climate Change Resiliency for New Jersey

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Addressing Climate Change Resiliency for New Jersey

As storms like Superstorm Sandy continue to grow more devastating and frequent, communities, governments, businesses, and industries of all sizes and varieties must face the challenge of adapting to a changing climate. October 29, 2019 marked the seventh anniversary of Sandy hitting New Jersey. Governor Murphy marked this occasion by signing Executive Order 89, which calls on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a Statewide Climate Change Resilience Strategy, among other initiatives related to climate change adaptation. “New Jersey is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise and global warming, and [this] Executive Order outlines a bold and comprehensive set of actions to ensure that our communities and infrastructure are more resilient against future storms,” said Government Murphy about the signing. The preamble to the Executive Order notes that New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as a coastal state. Picking up on this administration’s Environmental Justice efforts, the Order acknowledges that minority and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Climate change of course is an issue that also impacts all communities, including the business community, industry, and government. The preamble also notes that “studies show that each...

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman to Serve as Co-Chair for NYS-NYC Bar Program

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman to Serve as Co-Chair for NYS-NYC Bar Program

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman will serve as Program Co-Chair of an upcoming New York State Bar/New York City Bar conference on Federal and New York State brownfield and Superfund programs. The conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on December 12, 2019 at the New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. The program’s distinguished faculty includes New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez, and other officials from the EPA, the New York State of Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the New York State Office of Attorney General, and the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation. The topics to be discussed will include: trends in federal Superfund enforcement, including natural resource damages claims and the impact of the Superfund Task Force recommendations; NYSDEC policies and practices in implementing the 2015 Amendments to the Brownfield Cleanup Act; the intersection between Superfund and brownfields, focusing on developments at the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site; and an analysis of case law developments in these areas. Click here for a brochure describing the program and here for a further description and registration information.

Expect the Unexpected: New Jersey Appellate Division Rules That Language of Pre-SRRA Contract Requires Remediation Under New Rules

Expect the Unexpected: New Jersey Appellate Division Rules That Language of Pre-SRRA Contract Requires Remediation Under New Rules

It is universally recognized that the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) completely overhauled the process of site remediation in New Jersey. Less obvious, perhaps, was how the new statute could affect contractual cleanup obligations in agreements that predate SRRA’s enactment. In 89 Water Street Associates LLC v. Reilly, the Appellate Division held that the language of a purchase-and-sale agreement from 2004 required the seller to meet all of the requirements of the later-enacted statute, even if the cleanup takes much longer, and costs much more, than originally envisioned. The saga begins in 2004, when the plaintiff entered into a contract to purchase an industrial property in Bridgeton from the defendant’s predecessors in interest. The owner had already been through one remediation process, having obtained a “no further action” letter (NFA) from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) under the Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA) (then known as the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act). The owner leased the site to a company (NRI) that he controlled in 1984. Fast forward twenty years, when the parties entered into a contract to transfer the property for $475,000. The agreement set a closing date, which could be extended by six months, but...

NJ District Court Leaves Plaintiff Without Course of Relief Under CERCLA

NJ District Court Leaves Plaintiff Without Course of Relief Under CERCLA

In Stahl v. Bauer Auto, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey handed down a decision that may be troubling for parties seeking to recover environmental cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Responsive Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). By way of background, CERCLA generally provides a private cause of action to plaintiffs in two circumstances. The first falls under section 107(a), which allows a plaintiff to seek recovery of response costs that it has incurred from other potentially responsible parties. The second falls under section 113(f), which allows a plaintiff that is or was the defendant of a cost recovery claim, or that has resolved its liability with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under a judicially approved settlement, to seek contribution from other potentially responsible parties. Generally, a party that has incurred or will incur costs under CERCLA falls under one or both of these two categories. However, the N.J. District Court in Stahl held that there is at least one scenario where a plaintiff does not fall into either of these two categories and therefore has no claim under CERCLA. The factual history in the Stahl matter is long and complex. In short, the underlying...