Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA” or “the Agency”) shared some preliminary details regarding its impending proposal of financial assurances regulations for the hardrock mining industry. These regulations, which are still under consideration by the Agency, will likely serve as a harbinger of the financial assurances requirements EPA intends to impose on other industries, and collectively, they have the potential to have a significant financial impact on parties responsible for cleaning up contaminated properties.
In less than three weeks, the statutory deadline to complete a site-wide remedial investigation (“RI”) for many contaminated sites in New Jersey will pass. Any site for which an RI has not been completed will be subject to direct oversight of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”), which would come with additional costs, less control over the remediation, and other burdens for responsible parties. Accordingly, responsible parties and their Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (“LSRPs”) should do everything in their power to complete an RI by the statutory deadline: May 7, 2016.
District of New Jersey Decision Highlights Procedural and Evidentiary Complexities Unique to the State’s Environmental Litigants
In Leese v. Lockheed Martin Corp., one of the New Jersey’s foremost environmental jurists, the Honorable Jerome B. Simandle, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, authored a comprehensive opinion explaining why several plaintiffs who alleged harm caused by contamination on their properties were without recourse under a number of state and federal environmental laws. In so doing, the Chief Judge highlighted the procedural and evidentiary complexities unique to environmental litigants.
Unable to keep up with submittals from Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) and with the resulting increase in review times, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has recently decided to defer the review of non-Response Action Outcome (RAO) documents until an RAO is submitted. This announcement comes four years into the LSRP program, which as designed, has begun to eliminate the backlog of contaminated sites awaiting attention. However, the very success of the LSRP program has created its own backlog as NJDEP finds itself falling behind in review of submittals.
Sixth Circuit Becomes Latest Federal Appeals Court to Rule That CERCLA’s Contribution and Cost Recovery Provisions Provide Mutually Exclusive Remedies to PRPs
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit became the latest federal court of appeals to weigh in on the dichotomous nature of Superfund claims made under Sections 107 and 113 in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Atlantic Research Corp., 551 U.S. 128 (2007). In Hobart Corp. v. Waste Management of Ohio, Inc., the Sixth Circuit held that Sections 107(a)(4)(B) and 113(f) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675, “provide mutually exclusive remedies,” an issue left open in Atlantic Research.
New Jersey Supreme Court Finds Neither Plan Approval Nor Complete Remediation are Prerequisites to a Spill Act Contribution Action
In Magic Petroleum Corporation v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a party funding remediation of a contaminated site may bring a contribution claim against other potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) before completing remediation and prior to receiving the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP’s”) written approval of the remediation plan. In so doing, the Court has provided certainty, to a degree, to the environmental remediation process in New Jersey.
David J. Freeman to Chair Panel on Brownfield Reform at New York State Bar Association Environmental Law Section Fall Meeting
David J. Freeman, a Director at Gibbons P.C., will chair a panel on reform of New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program at the Fall Meeting of the Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. The panel will discuss the Governor’s and Legislature’s actions this year―passage of an extension of the tax credit aspects of the Program, without enacting underlying reforms―and what is likely to happen next year. It will feature such prominent experts as Edward McTiernan, General Counsel of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Christopher Goeken, Director of Public Policy and Governmental Relations of the New York League of Conservation Voters; Darren Suarez, Director of Governmental Affairs of the New York State Business Counsel; Jody Kass, Executive Director of New Partners for Community Revitalization; Philip Bousquet, Partner at Bousquet Holstein; and Linda Shaw, Partner at Knauf Shaw.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has more formally confirmed the scope of the responsibility to address historic pesticide use on commercial and industrial properties: namely that a party need not remediate historic pesticide use unless there is a land use change to residences, schools, child care centers and playgrounds. On June 20, 2014, the NJDEP published an additional notice for Response Action Outcomes, the written determination by a Licensed Site Remediation Professional that a remediation is complete, which specifically permits completion of a remediation without investigation of contamination from historic pesticide use. The notice would only apply to contamination from the application of such pesticides to, for example, a former orchard or farm, but not contamination from a discharge caused by the mixing, manufacturing or other handling of such chemicals. NJDEP approval is not required for an LSRP to use this notice.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) has announced that it will continue to accept applications for the two year extension from the May 7, 2014, deadline to complete remedial investigations until March 21, 2014, due to the high number of weather-related statewide closings. Originally, applications had to be filed with NJDEP by March 7, 2014.
A number of Responsible Parties are breathing a sigh of relief. On January 21, 2014, Governor Christie signed legislation authorizing a two year extension for Responsible Parties to complete their remedial investigations before risking being placed under direct oversight of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The deadline has been extended from May 14, 2014, to May 7, 2016, under certain circumstances. Pursuant to the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA), the deadline applies to all site investigations or preliminary assessments that are being conducted to address discharges or contaminated areas of concern that have been or should have been identified on or before May 7, 1999.