Real Property & Environmental Law Alert Blog

NJ Appellate Division Case Highlights Importance of Thorough Due Diligence Regarding Properties Containing “Abandoned” Railroad Lines

NJ Appellate Division Case Highlights Importance of Thorough Due Diligence Regarding Properties Containing “Abandoned” Railroad Lines

The conveyance of property containing embankments or former railroad facilities may invoke complicated title issues that could lead to significant costs and delays for real estate purchasers seeking to develop the property if such issues are not adequately addressed prior to the acquisition. On January 23, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision in 212 Marin Boulevard, LLC, et al. v. Chicago Title Insurance Company and Consolidated Rail Corporation, concerning a party’s alleged misrepresentation about whether the conveyed embankment property was subject to the Surface Transportation Board’s (“STB”) abandonment authority. The STB is the federal agency established to oversee rate and service disputes for railways, as well as railway restructuring transactions, including abandonment of rail lines. Presumptively, any abandonment of rail lines by an entity regulated by the STB requires STB approval, unless excepted under federal statute. The seller, Consolidated Rail Corporation (“Conrail”), represented to Chicago Title Insurance Company (“Chicago Title”) that STB abandonment was not required, and Chicago Title, in apparent reliance on this statement, issued policies for the conveyed parcels when the purchaser closed on the property. Even so, the Appellate Division rejected Chicago Title’s third party complaint against Conrail for negligent misrepresentation. The decision...

NJDEP Proposes to Reclassify 749 Miles of Waterways to Highly Protected Antidegradation Status in First Such Move Since 2008

NJDEP Proposes to Reclassify 749 Miles of Waterways to Highly Protected Antidegradation Status in First Such Move Since 2008

For the first time since 2008, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has proposed to amend its surface water quality standards to prohibit degradation of water quality in additional rivers and streams that did not previously enjoy such protection. The current proposal, which was released on March 4, would lift hundreds of miles of waterways to a more protected status as Category One waters. NJDEP’s water quality standards, found at N.J.A.C. 7:9B, have several components. The standards designate uses for all waters of the State, and prescribe water quality criteria (e.g., minimum levels of dissolved oxygen, and maximum levels of suspended solids and various toxics) necessary to allow for those uses. In addition, the standards establish three tiers of “antidegradation” designations. The highest tier consists of “outstanding natural resource waters,” so designated because of their unique ecological significance or because they are within the Pinelands, must be maintained in their natural state. Category One waters, occupying the second tier, are protected from any measurable change in their existing water quality. Water quality in Category Two waters, the third tier, may be lowered, but only with social and/or economic justification for the change. NJDEP’s proposal, which was first presented...

The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig Accident Continues to Cause Ripples: Texas Supreme Court Holds That Defense Costs are Not Liabilities Under Insurance Policy

The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig Accident Continues to Cause Ripples: Texas Supreme Court Holds That Defense Costs are Not Liabilities Under Insurance Policy

The Supreme Court of Texas recently issued a decision in which the community of insured parties and insurer parties alike will be interested. The case, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, et al. v. Houston Casualty Company, et al., stems from the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling-rig accident that has been called, “the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.” The decision distinguishes between an insured’s “liability” and “expenses” under certain policy language to the consequent of $112 million. The case involved the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Anadarko E&P Company, L.P. (collectively, “Anadarko”) and a group of insurance underwriters led by the Houston Casualty Company (the “Underwriters”). Anadarko was a 25% minority interest holder in the Macondo Well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Anadarko reached a settlement agreement with BP under which Anadarko agreed to provide its 25% interest and to pay $4 billion to BP in exchange for a release and indemnity against all other liabilities arising out of the accident. Anadarko’s legal fees and defense expenses were not included in the settlement agreement, and Anadarko sought these fees and expenses from the Underwriters pursuant to its “energy package” insurance policy. The policy included...

Settlors Beware: A Recent NJ District Court Decision Has the Potential to Have Far Reaching Impacts on Parties Entering into Settlements Under CERCLA

Settlors Beware: A Recent NJ District Court Decision Has the Potential to Have Far Reaching Impacts on Parties Entering into Settlements Under CERCLA

A recent decision from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey may throw a new wrinkle into the already complex settlement process under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Specifically, the decision addresses the question of what claims are included in the “matters addressed” in a settlement and entitled to contribution protection. On July 23, 2018, in N.J. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Am. Thermoplastics Corp, et al., Judge William H. Walls granted summary judgment in favor of the third-party defendants Carter Day Industries, Inc. (CDI), Combe Fill Corporation (CFC), and Combustion Equipment Associates, Inc. (“CEA”) (collectively, “Carter Day Parties”). Judge Walls held that the Carter Day Parties are entitled to contribution protection from claims for CERCLA costs incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) based on a settlement agreement between the Carter Day Parties and the State of New Jersey, notwithstanding that USEPA was not a party to the settlement. In following, the five-count first amended complaint of the third-party plaintiffs’ Compaction Systems Corporation of Connecticut, Inc. and Compaction Systems Corporation of New Jersey (together, “Compaction”) was dismissed with prejudice. The five counts of the complaint were: i) cost recovery...

Split Ninth Circuit Grants Government’s Interlocutory Appeal in Youths’ Climate Change Suit

Split Ninth Circuit Grants Government’s Interlocutory Appeal in Youths’ Climate Change Suit

In 2015, 21 youth plaintiffs, ranging in age from eight to 19 at the time of filing, brought a constitutional climate-change lawsuit against the United States alleging that the United States and various executive branch agencies discriminate against younger generations with policies that contribute to and exacerbate climate change in violation of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. The plaintiffs seek an order enjoining current governmental policies and adopting a plan to curb excessive carbon dioxide emissions. The government unsuccessfully sought to have the case dismissed, and when that failed, sought mandamus from the Ninth Circuit directing the district court to dismiss the suit. Recently, after a trip up to the United States Supreme Court and back down to the Oregon District Court, the Ninth Circuit ultimately agreed by a 2-1 majority to allow the defendants’ mandamus petition to proceed. The majority noted that interlocutory appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) are generally only authorized when a district court order “involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion” and found “an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The plaintiffs allege that...

Recap: IRS Convenes Public Hearing on Proposed Regulations for Opportunity Zones

Recap: IRS Convenes Public Hearing on Proposed Regulations for Opportunity Zones

Jason J. Redd, a Director in the Gibbons Government & Regulatory Affairs Department attended an overflowing public hearing on February 14 convened by the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of obtaining input from stakeholders concerning the initial proposed regulations for Opportunity Zones (OZ) issued in October. The IRS is reviewing comments on the first round of proposed rules and is expected to issue the next round of proposed regulations in March, with the potential for final regulations to be issued in late spring. Witnesses at the packed hearing included state cabinet officials, as well as representatives from state economic development groups, small businesses, community reinvestment coalitions, investment funds, and technology and planning organizations, among others. Testimony focused on ensuring that program regulations maximize investment and economic growth by generating new development, capital, and jobs in the distressed communities where OZs are located. There was also a clear call, by all in attendance, for clarity and flexibility in the next round of rules. Suggestions included: (i) modifying the rules to provide more flexibility to investors when exiting Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) investments, which is currently limited to a sale of the QOF investment itself; (ii) minimizing sourcing and location rules...

NJ Appellate Division Announces Evidentiary Standards for Condemnations “Necessary” for a Redevelopment Project

NJ Appellate Division Announces Evidentiary Standards for Condemnations “Necessary” for a Redevelopment Project

At what point is a piece of property “necessary” for a redevelopment project? On January 7, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division published a decision in Borough of Glassboro v. Jack Grossman, Matthew Roche, and Dan Desilvio, — N.J. Super. — (App. Div. 2019) (slip op. at 2) that – for the first time – clarifies the phrase “necessary for the redevelopment project” as stated in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) at N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-8(c). The three-judge panel addressed the question of whether a showing of necessity is required by a condemning authority beyond the designation of the area as one in need of redevelopment, and, what showing it must make in order to condemn a parcel of land located with a redevelopment area. Existing case law required the taking to be “reasonably necessary,” but had never clarified what standards should be used to evaluate how necessary a given property might be to a given redevelopment project. This decision now requires that when a landowner within a redevelopment area contests the necessity of a condemnation, the condemning authority must articulate a definitive need to acquire the parcel for an identified redevelopment project. In Grossman, the defendants owned or were...

Plaintiffs Must Cast a Wide Net for Spill Act Claims

Plaintiffs Must Cast a Wide Net for Spill Act Claims

The New Jersey Appellate Division has applied the doctrine of judicial estoppel to uphold the dismissal of a Spill Act contribution action on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to seek contribution from all potentially responsible parties that were known (or reasonably knowable) in an earlier action. The court ruled that the application of judicial estoppel in the case before it was consistent with the Spill Act’s objective to cast a wide net over those responsible for hazardous substances and their discharge on the land and waters of the state. “Plaintiffs are precluded from floating a lazy cast toward one discharger and then shooting a second line toward others, seeking contribution for cleanup of the same property.” The plaintiffs in Terranova v. Gen. Elec. Pension Trust (Docket No. A-5699-16T3), owners of commercial property that had long been used as a gas station, brought this action in 2015. The defendants were owners/operators of the property from 1960 through 1980, during which time soil and groundwater at the property had allegedly been contaminated by three underground storage tanks. Of consequence to the court’s decision, the plaintiffs had previously filed an action in 2010 against two separate individuals that had operated the gas station from...

Gibbons to Exhibit at ICSC New York Deal Making Conference on Wednesday and Thursday

Gibbons to Exhibit at ICSC New York Deal Making Conference on Wednesday and Thursday

The Gibbons Real Property Department will once again exhibit at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) New York Deal Making Conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on December 5-6. Stop by our booth, #2411, and meet with some of the Department’s attorneys who will be attending (Click here to view the Deal Making floor plan). Show hours are Wednesday, December 5, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Thursday, December 6, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

“Housing is Health Care”: New Jersey HMFA Launches Program for Supportive Housing Partnership with Hospitals

“Housing is Health Care”: New Jersey HMFA Launches Program for Supportive Housing Partnership with Hospitals

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), in collaboration with the New Jersey Hospital Association, has announced a pilot subsidy program to promote investment by hospitals throughout New Jersey in affordable and supportive housing. The program was previously endorsed by the New Jersey Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees. Following a number of recent studies highlighting the interconnection between stable, safe, and affordable housing and maintaining a higher quality of life, HMFA created a partnership program for New Jersey’s hospitals and affordable housing developers to try and fill a notable void in supportive housing. Hospitals are encouraged to work with developers to target housing for special needs residents or users of frequent emergency room services. HMFA anticipates the projects would consist of 60-70 units and can include mixed-use space for doctors’ offices, clinics, or other community uses. Approximately ten of the units would be set aside for low-income households (50 percent of gross median income), and the remainder would be restricted to households of moderate income (80 percent of gross median income). The program, currently funded with $12 million, seeks to match funding contributions from hospitals up to $4 million to fund three or four projects in New Jersey. The...