Category: Environmental and Green Issues

New Jersey Enacts Changes to Landmark 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act

New Jersey Enacts Changes to Landmark 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act

In 2009, in the face of a significant backlog of sites that were stuck in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) pipeline, the New Jersey Legislature dramatically changed the process of site remediation in the Garden State with the enactment of the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA). The SRRA partially outsourced DEP’s review role by authorizing “private” oversight of cleanups by Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs). On August 23, 2019, Governor Murphy signed new legislation that made further adjustments to the changes wrought by the SRRA. The legislation (L. 2019, c. 263), which sailed through both legislative chambers without a single opposing vote, makes a number of changes to the LSRP program, as well as other changes affecting parties responsible for conducting remediation projects. Amendments Affecting LSRPs Removal of unoccupied structures from list of areas that must be addressed as an “immediate environmental concern.” Expansion of LSRP duties to report immediate environmental concerns and previously unreported discharges. A slight relaxation of licensing requirements for individuals who may have temporarily left the work force for personal reasons. Clarification of prior acts and punishments that will disqualify a person from obtaining an LSRP license. Tightening of LSRPs’ oversight responsibilities to ensure that...

U.S. Supreme Court Provides Guidance on the Disclosure of Confidential Information Under FOIA

U.S. Supreme Court Provides Guidance on the Disclosure of Confidential Information Under FOIA

Businesses often share sensitive information with the government either voluntarily or by mandate. This information becomes subject to requests under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), which is a source of concern to any business worried about disclosure of competitive business information. The United States Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that directly addresses this concern. In Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, the Court provides guidance on the protection from the disclosure of shared information deemed “confidential” under FOIA’s Exemption 4. In addition to businesses, this decision will have significant impact on public interest groups and media that may seek information through FOIA. Justice Gorsuch authored the opinion for the majority, which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, Kagan, and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Breyer added an opinion concurring in part, and dissenting in part that Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor joined. Argus Leader Media, a newspaper in South Dakota, filed a request under FOIA seeking information the United Stated Department of Agriculture collected as part of the national food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Specifically, Argus Leader sought the names and addresses of retailers that participate in SNAP and each store’s annual...

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

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

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of Texas recently refused an application for rehearing and declined to revisit its January holding that defense costs are not liabilities under an energy insurance policy. That decision, in the matter captioned Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, et al. v. Houston Casualty Company, et al., stemmed 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 Court held that Lloyd’s of London Underwriters (“Lloyd’s”) were liable to cover approximately $112 million as a result of policy language that the Court interpreted as distinguishing between “liability” and “expenses.” 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...

Governor Murphy Signs Stormwater Utilities Bill Into Law

Governor Murphy Signs Stormwater Utilities Bill Into Law

On March 18, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation authorizing municipalities (and other public entities) to establish utilities for the creation and management of stormwater infrastructure. The legislation, S1073, also known as the Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act (the “Act”), provides that a governing body of a county or municipality may create a stormwater utility “for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating stormwater management systems.” The Act also allows municipalities and counties that have established sewerage authorities to request that the authority create a stormwater utility, so that the functions of the utility would be managed by the existing authority rather than the municipality(ies) or county directly. Perhaps most importantly, the Act authorizes stormwater utilities to “charge and collect reasonable fees and other charges” to recoup the costs incurred by the utility in performing stormwater management in the subject locality. Under the Act, charges may be assessed against the owner or occupant, or both, of any real property from which stormwater enters a stormwater management system. The Act also includes provisions allowing municipalities, etc. that establish stormwater utilities to issue bonds to fund stormwater management systems, and imposes reporting requirements on utilities and rulemaking...

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...

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!