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...
Tagged: Due Diligence
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 On January 23, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision in 212 Marin Boulevard, LLC, et al.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...
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...
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...
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...
A recent New Jersey Appellate Division case concerning spoliation of evidence in the context of a contribution action under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”) counsels caution on the part of redevelopers of contaminated sites. The case makes clear that owners of contaminated sites must endeavor to preserve physical evidence related to the contamination as soon as litigation becomes “probable” if they hope to rely on that evidence in a future contribution action.
Recently, the City of Newark (the “City”) approved Ordinance No. 16-0803, a/k/a the Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance, (the “Ordinance”), which may significantly impact the process for seeking development approvals from the City. The Ordinance purports to advance the policy of promoting environmental justice, environmental stewardship, and sustainable economic development in the City. More specifically, the Ordinance seeks to mitigate the disproportionate impact of pollution and environmental degradation on the health of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, otherwise known as “environmental injustice.” As the Ordinance notes, the prevalence of environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities near industrial centers and other areas afflicted by poor environmental quality is well documented.
As the third installment in the series, “From Ink to Occupancy, A Game Plan for a Successful Real Estate Project,” stemming from the Gibbons Women’s Initiative Seminar Series held in May, this blog addresses the question of whether title review alone is sufficient for purposes of ascertaining what restrictions are in place for a property being acquired. The simple answer is NO. All too often commercial buyers anxious to close on a property take shortcuts and limit their due diligence to title review as opposed to conducting land use due diligence. This blog explains why, particularly in New Jersey, it is critical to conduct land use and zoning due diligence in addition to title review prior to the acquisition of a property, so that you can be fully aware of any potential restrictions impacting the property.
N.J. Appellate Court Clarifies That Owners of Pre-1993 Property Must Prove Due Diligence During Acquisition Under the Innocent Purchaser Defense Codified in the Spill Act
On October 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy began its assault on the State, a New Jersey Appellate Court in New Jersey School Developments Authority v. Marcantuone created its own “storm” in Spill Act jurisprudence by holding that purchasers of contaminated property prior to September 14, 1993, can be liable under the Spill Act if they failed to conduct due diligence prior to purchase. In reaching this conclusion, the Appellate Division held that the long-standing 2001 decision in White Oak Funding, Inc. v. Winning had been superseded, in part, by the 2001 amendments to the Spill Act (“2001 Amendments”), which had been adopted a few weeks before the White Oak decision and became effective a week after the decision.
The Extension of the Permit Extension Act is on the Move, To Be Reviewed Today By Assembly Appropriations Committee
About two months ago, several NJ Legislators, including State Senator Paul Sarlo (Bergen/Passaic) and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, proposed bills that would amend the 2008 “Permit Extension Act.” Designed to give developers breathing room in the sluggish economy by extending the validity of development approvals, Proposed Bill S743 (the “Bill” or “S743”) is gaining traction and is moving through the necessary legislative committees. On March 5, 2012, S743 passed by a vote of 4-0 by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The Bill is scheduled to go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on March 12, 2012.