Category: Environmental and Green Issues

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...

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!

EPA Provides Guidance to BFPPs Regarding Their Ability to Receive Reimbursement from EPA Superfund Special Accounts

EPA Provides Guidance to BFPPs Regarding Their Ability to Receive Reimbursement from EPA Superfund Special Accounts

One underused provision in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) makes Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Special Accounts available for reimbursement to Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers (BFPPs). This provision has received greater scrutiny by EPA following the creation of the Superfund Task Force (“Task Force”) in May 2017, and BFPPs should carefully consider the potential benefits that Superfund Special Accounts might provide. The Task Force includes senior representatives from different EPA Regional Offices with responsibility for Superfund policy and enforcement. EPA created the Task Force to streamline and strengthen the Superfund program. In July 2017, the Task Force issued a report containing five goals and 42 recommendations. The full report is available here. Goal number two in the report is to reinvigorate responsible party cleanup and reuse of Superfund sites. One of the specific recommendations relating to this goal is to maximize the use of special accounts to facilitate site cleanup and/or redevelopment. EPA has begun to implement this recommendation with the issuance of a March 27, 2018 memorandum to its Regional Offices entitled: “Guidance on Disbursement of Funds from EPA Special Accounts to Entities Performing CERCLA Response Actions.” The full memorandum is available here. On July...

N.J. Appellate Division: Both Parties Were Ineligible for Public Entity Cleanup Grant Where Private Party Conducting Remediation for County’s Benefit Was Not County’s Redeveloper or Agent

N.J. Appellate Division: Both Parties Were Ineligible for Public Entity Cleanup Grant Where Private Party Conducting Remediation for County’s Benefit Was Not County’s Redeveloper or Agent

For purposes of obtaining financial assistance from the State, cleaning up environmental contamination for a governmental body’s benefit is not the same as cleaning it up on behalf of the government as its formal designee. That is the hard lesson that a former landowner learned in the New Jersey Appellate Division’s August 29, 2018 decision in In re Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund Public Entity Grant Application for Remedial Investigation and Remedial Action. When Barry Rosengarten contracted to sell a parcel of land in Perth Amboy to Middlesex County for use as open space, he agreed to remediate environmental contamination, and the County escrowed monies from the sale to be released to Mr. Rosengarten as he performed the cleanup. The County also agreed to cooperate in seeking State grants that could offset those costs and thus reduce Mr. Rosengarten’s net cleanup expenses. Through Mr. Rosengarten’s counsel, the County applied to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for either a Brownfield Development Area Grant or a 75% Recreation and Conservation Grant. NJDEP denied the application after finding that the County was not performing the cleanup and that the contract did not provide that Mr. Rosengarten was doing the work...

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 on Recommendation 16-2, Part 2: Improving Implementation of Cleanup Agreements for Response Actions by PRPs

Superfund Task Force Listening Session on Recommendation 16-2, Part 2: Improving Implementation of Cleanup Agreements for Response Actions by PRPs

On June 18, 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) held the last of eight listening sessions on the recommendations of its Superfund Task Force. This last listening session concerned Part 2 of Recommendation 16-2018, which calls for improvement in the process of implementing cleanup agreements under which potentially responsible parties (PRPs) commit to carry out site cleanups under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). EPA speakers included Ellen Stern (Office of Regional Counsel, Region 10), Ken Patterson (Office of Site Remediation Enforcement (OSRE), Douglas Dixon (OSRE), and Charles Howland (Office of Regional Counsel, Region 3). They noted a number of reasons for delays in the completion of cleanups under such agreements, ranging from the submission of multiple versions of the same deliverable and time-consuming dispute resolution procedures to lax (or, conversely, excessively stringent) enforcement of deadlines and imposition of stipulated penalties. They also acknowledged EPA’s reluctance to exercise its most extreme enforcement tool – taking over the work and using financial assurance established by the PRPs. Outside participants called on EPA to expand the number of PRPs that are called upon to perform cleanups (including municipalities) to reduce the financial burden on any one PRP. The Superfund...

Superfund Task Force Recommendation 23 Listening Session: Informing Parties About Streamlining the Cleanup and Redevelopment Process

Superfund Task Force Recommendation 23 Listening Session: Informing Parties About Streamlining the Cleanup and Redevelopment Process

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) held a listening session concerning the Superfund Task Force (“Task Force”) Recommendation 23 on June 13, 2018. Recommendation 23 focuses on tools designed to assist parties interested in redevelopment of contaminated sites. The EPA created the Task Force in May 2017, which is comprised of senior representatives from various EPA offices associated with Superfund policy and enforcement. The Task Force intends to streamline and strengthen the Superfund program. In July 2017, the Task Force issued a report containing five goals and 42 recommendations. The Task Force’s five goals are to: i) expedite the cleanup and remediation process; ii) reinvigorate responsible party cleanup and reuse; iii) encourage private investment; iv) promote development and community revitalization; and v) engage parties and stakeholders. The full report is available here. Phil Page from EPA’s Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, Policy, and Program Evaluation Division presented the listening session for Recommendation 23. The slide deck from the session is available here. Recommendation 23 aims to deliver an efficient and effective process to identify site-specific liability issues, to identify best manage practices to quickly respond to third-party concerns regarding liability, and to create a national team of redevelopment experts. Recommendation 23...