NYSDEC Adopts Update to SEQR Regulations

NYSDEC Adopts Update to SEQR Regulations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) announced on June 28, 2018 that it had adopted a rulemaking package directed at updating its regulations relating to the State Environmental Quality Review (“SEQR”). The updates – DEC’s first to its SEQR regulations in more than two decades – are the product of an effort that began in February 2017 with the DEC’s filing of an initial notice and, following a series of public comment periods and subsequent revisions, culminated with its publication of the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“FGEIS”) and revised text of the regulations. As revised, the regulations become effective on January 1, 2019 and apply to all actions for which a determination of significance has not been made by January 1, 2019. For projects that receive a determination of significance made prior to January 1, 2019, the existing SEQR regulations (which originally took effect in 1996) will continue to apply. Once effective, the revised regulations could have a significant impact on SEQR’s applicability to future development projects. The new regulations contemplate a number of mechanical changes to the environmental review process itself, including mandatory scoping of environmental impact statements, changes to the required content of environmental impact...

Superfund Task Force Listening Session – Exploring CERCLA Environmental Liability Transfer Approaches

Superfund Task Force Listening Session – Exploring CERCLA Environmental Liability Transfer Approaches

On June 5, 2018 the Superfund Task Force held another of its eight scheduled public listening sessions intended to solicit public and stakeholder input relating to recommendations contained in the Task Force’s July 2017 report. The listening session focused on Recommendation 22, which suggests exploring Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) approaches and other risk management tools. While Recommendation 22 addresses a variety of risk management approaches Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) might use to transfer responsibilities, the listening session honed in on ELTs specifically. Participants in the listening session were able to follow along with a presentation from Greg Wall of OSRE’s Regional Support Division, Erik Hanselman of OSRE’s Policy and Program Evaluation Division, and Charlie Howland from the Region 3 Office of Regional Counsel, who described the general function of ELTs and offered details from two case-studies where ELTs were used effectively to spur cleanup by private parties at sites with unique challenges. As detailed by the presenters during the session, an ELT is a mechanism whereby PRPs contractually transfer their cleanup response obligations to a specialized third party for a negotiated price. The upside to the public of such arrangements is that they encourage cleanup by specialized private parties who are particularly...

Update: U.S. Supreme Court Announces New Test for Defining “the Parcel” in a Regulatory Taking

Update: U.S. Supreme Court Announces New Test for Defining “the Parcel” in a Regulatory Taking

On March 22, 2017, we blogged about the importance of the United States Supreme Court’s looming decision in Murr v. Wisconsin – a regulatory takings case that was poised to resolve a key question long left unanswered by the Court’s takings jurisprudence: how do you define the relevant parcel in determining a regulation’s impact on “the parcel as a whole?” On June 23, 2017, the Court issued its ruling, and in a 5-3 decision answered definitively that it depends. Sometimes a regulation may go so far as to effect a “taking” of one’s property. In determining when a regulation has gone so far, the Court has previously instructed that reviewing courts must consider the regulation’s interference with property rights “in the parcel as a whole.” But the precise boundaries of “the parcel” are not always clear and, in many cases, may prove to be dispositive of whether there was a taking at all. The Court described the problem in Keystone Bituminous Coal Assn. v. DeBenedictis, explaining that because the regulatory takings analysis requires a comparison between the value taken from the property to the value which remains, “one of the critical questions is determining how to define the unit of property whose...

Opinion from Eastern District of New York May Have Opened the Door to a New Defense for Potential CERCLA “Arrangers”

Opinion from Eastern District of New York May Have Opened the Door to a New Defense for Potential CERCLA “Arrangers”

In Town of Islip v. Datre, a recent decision out of the Eastern District of New York, the court adopted an approach to “arranger liability” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) that holds parties cannot be liable unless they knew that the substances they arranged for disposal were, in fact, hazardous. The Islip court’s approach represents a departure from traditional considerations of arranger liability and, if followed by future courts, may present a defense for potentially responsible parties who, though intentionally arranging for disposal of materials which ultimately lead to contamination, lacked specific knowledge that such materials contained hazardous substances. The Islip case arises out of illegal dumping of hazardous construction and demolition debris that occurred at a public park (“the park”) in Islip, New York between 2013 and 2014. Though the case involves an elaborate and bizarre dumping scheme involving, among many others, a local church, the parks department, and a number of haulers, as well as the eventual filing of criminal charges, it is sufficient for present purposes to distill the facts as follows. Relevant to the issue of arranger liability, a civil complaint filed by the Town of Islip (“the Town”) alleged that...

What Parcel? SCOTUS Hears Arguments in Case Poised to Clarify the Court’s Regulatory Takings Jurisprudence

What Parcel? SCOTUS Hears Arguments in Case Poised to Clarify the Court’s Regulatory Takings Jurisprudence

The Supreme Court of the United States entertained arguments on Monday, March 20, 2017 in a case likely to fortify its Fifth Amendment regulatory takings jurisprudence. The case, Murr v. Wisconsin, is on appeal from Wisconsin’s high court and, when decided, should answer a question left open by the Court’s 1978 ruling in Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York. In Penn Central, the Court instructed that in determining whether a regulation has gone far enough to constitute a taking of private property, courts should not limit their analysis to the regulation’s effect on some discrete segment or portion of the subject property, but should instead consider the regulation’s interference with property rights “in the parcel as a whole.” The question of how reviewing courts should define that parcel, however, has gone unanswered for decades. Enter the Murr children, whose parents purchased two adjacent tracts of land along the St. Croix River in the early 1960s. The Murr parents built a cabin on the first lot and maintained title to it in the name of their business. The second lot, purchased afterwards, was kept in their name and remained largely undeveloped. In 1976, a county ordinance was passed establishing new minimum...

Tenth Circuit finds that Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Debtor’s Settlement of CERCLA Claims No Bar to Post-Reorganization Contribution Action Against Other PRPs

Tenth Circuit finds that Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Debtor’s Settlement of CERCLA Claims No Bar to Post-Reorganization Contribution Action Against Other PRPs

The Tenth Circuit recently ruled in Asarco, LLC v. Noranda Mining, Inc. that a mining company (“Plaintiff”) could maintain a contribution action against another mining operation (“Defendant”) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) despite the Plaintiff’s earlier representation in Bankruptcy proceedings that its fair share of liability for contamination at the site in question was $8.7 million — the amount it paid to settle the Environmental Protection Agency’s claim. The pertinent facts arose, largely, from the Plaintiff’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and a global settlement of all environmental claims. The global settlement, reached in 2009, resolved environmental claims at 52 different sites across 19 states, with a total cost of about $1.79 billion. Included among the myriad claims being settled was the one at issue in this case: an $8.7 million payment to address the Plaintiff’s share of liability at two related sites near Park City, Utah (“the site”). Defending the reasonableness of the settlement figure before the Bankruptcy Court, the Plaintiff maintained that $8.7 million represented its proportionate share of liability for contamination at the site. In 2013, following its Chapter 11 reorganization, the Plaintiff filed a CERCLA contribution claim against the Defendant, another potentially responsible...

Governor Signs Off on Amendments to New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act 0

Governor Signs Off on Amendments to New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act

On January 9, 2017, Governor Christie signed into law a bill aimed at fortifying New Jersey’s existing Electronic Waste Management Act, by ensuring that manufactures of certain consumer electronics shoulder the burden for recycling all such devices actually collected in the state during a calendar year. While this new law is technically a recast of the existing statutory scheme, the changes it affects are, in many ways, transformative. This blog provides a broad description of the previous law, the apparent conditions which prompted its revision, and the key innovations of the new law.