Tagged: Remediation

NJ District Court Leaves Plaintiff Without Course of Relief Under CERCLA

NJ District Court Leaves Plaintiff Without Course of Relief Under CERCLA

In Stahl v. Bauer Auto, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey handed down a decision that may be troubling for parties seeking to recover environmental cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Responsive Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). By way of background, CERCLA generally provides a private cause of action to plaintiffs in two circumstances. The first falls under section 107(a), which allows a plaintiff to seek recovery of response costs that it has incurred from other potentially responsible parties. The second falls under section 113(f), which allows a plaintiff that is or was the defendant of a cost recovery claim, or that has resolved its liability with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under a judicially approved settlement, to seek contribution from other potentially responsible parties. Generally, a party that has incurred or will incur costs under CERCLA falls under one or both of these two categories. However, the N.J. District Court in Stahl held that there is at least one scenario where a plaintiff does not fall into either of these two categories and therefore has no claim under CERCLA. The factual history in the Stahl matter is long and complex. In short, the underlying...

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...

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...

All in the Family: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Status of Pre-1983 Purchaser as “Innocent Party” Applied to Current Owner Despite Property Transfers Among Family Members Via Trusts

All in the Family: N.J. Appellate Division Holds That Status of Pre-1983 Purchaser as “Innocent Party” Applied to Current Owner Despite Property Transfers Among Family Members Via Trusts

Reversing the denial of an application for an “innocent party” grant, the New Jersey Appellate Division recently held in an unpublished opinion, Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, that property transfers among family members, even through the use of trusts, are not “changes of ownership.” Thus, a corporation that acquired a parcel of land in 2006 was eligible to seek an “innocent party” grant that is available only to pre-1983 transferees because the property had remained within the same family since its original acquisition in 1977. The property at issue was originally acquired in 1977 by Robert Higginson, well before the December 31, 1983 cutoff for eligibility as an “innocent party” under New Jersey law. Upon his death 16 years later, he bequeathed the property to his wife through two 50% shares placed into separate trusts. His wife then assigned her shares in the property to two new trusts. The interests of those trusts in the property were subsequently transferred to their son, who created a new entity, Cedar Knolls 2006, LLC, to which he transferred the two 50% shares, making Cedar Knolls the sole owner of the property. Nine years later, Cedar Knolls applied for...

NJDEP Announces Change to Remediation Standards for Certain Contaminants

NJDEP Announces Change to Remediation Standards for Certain Contaminants

On September 18, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) announced updated soil remediation standards for 19 contaminants. The updates are based on changes to toxicity data for the specified contaminants maintained by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System database. Responsible parties and others conducting cleanups should consult with their Licensed Site Remediation Professionals and other environmental consultants regarding the applicability of the new standards to their sites. The new standards are in effect as of September 18, 2017. A copy of the updated standards can be viewed at NJDEP’s website.

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...

Turning Back the Clock: NJ Appellate Division Holds That ISRA De Minimis Quantity Exemption Still Available Following Withdrawal of NFA

Turning Back the Clock: NJ Appellate Division Holds That ISRA De Minimis Quantity Exemption Still Available Following Withdrawal of NFA

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently announced several interesting holdings regarding the New Jersey Industrial Site Recovery Act (“ISRA”), N.J.S.A. 13:1K-6, et seq. In R&K Associates, LLC v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Docket No. A-4177-14T1, the Court held that a former owner of an industrial site may apply for an exemption from the ISRA process even when the former owner has not owned the site for many years and elected to not pursue the exemption in the past. The case concerned the final decision of the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) denying a De Minimis Quantity Exemption (“DQE”) under ISRA to the former owner of the subject industrial site. ISRA is the New Jersey law which generally requires owners of industrial sites to remediate on-site environmental contamination or expressly assume responsibility for remediation prior to transferring an ownership of the site. A DQE under ISRA allows an owner of an industrial site to avoid the requirements of ISRA where only trivial amounts of hazardous substances were used on-site. The case has an extensive procedural history with three appeals and numerous DEP actions, beginning with DEP’s withdrawal of a 1997 No Further Action (“NFA”) letter to the former owner. When...