Tagged: USEPA

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...

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...

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...

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...

Superfund Task Force Listening Session – Exploring CERCLA Environmental Liability Transfer Approaches

Superfund Task Force Listening Session – Exploring CERCLA Environmental Liability Transfer Approaches

On June 5, 2018 the Superfund Task Force held another of its eight scheduled public listening sessions intended to solicit public and stakeholder input relating to recommendations contained in the Task Force’s July 2017 report. The listening session focused on Recommendation 22, which suggests exploring Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) approaches and other risk management tools. While Recommendation 22 addresses a variety of risk management approaches Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) might use to transfer responsibilities, the listening session honed in on ELTs specifically. Participants in the listening session were able to follow along with a presentation from Greg Wall of OSRE’s Regional Support Division, Erik Hanselman of OSRE’s Policy and Program Evaluation Division, and Charlie Howland from the Region 3 Office of Regional Counsel, who described the general function of ELTs and offered details from two case-studies where ELTs were used effectively to spur cleanup by private parties at sites with unique challenges. As detailed by the presenters during the session, an ELT is a mechanism whereby PRPs contractually transfer their cleanup response obligations to a specialized third party for a negotiated price. The upside to the public of such arrangements is that they encourage cleanup by specialized private parties who are particularly...

Superfund Task Force Holds First of Eight Listening Sessions for Stakeholders, Focused on Expediting Settlement Negotiations

Superfund Task Force Holds First of Eight Listening Sessions for Stakeholders, Focused on Expediting Settlement Negotiations

The Superfund Task Force, created in May 2017, issued a report in July 2017 proposing recommendations to streamline and strengthen the Superfund program. The Report contained five goals and 42 recommendations. In order to obtain input from stakeholders and the public and to increase transparency and improve communications, USEPA has convened eight listening sessions being held from May 21 to June 18, 2018. The Gibbons Environmental Department will be covering these listening sessions and blogging about them. The first listening session, which focused on expediting settlement negotiations, was held on May 21, 2018. The five goals of the Superfund Task Force Report are: (1) expediting cleanup and remediation process, (2) reinvigorating responsible party cleanup and reuse, (3) encouraging private investment, (4) promoting redevelopment and community revitalization, and (5) engaging partners and stakeholders. The first listening session focused on Goal 2 through the strategy of encouraging responsible party clean-up with expedited negotiations. Christina Skaar from OSRE’s Regional Support Division and Elizabeth McKenna, Region 10 Office of Regional Counsel, made a short presentation at the beginning of the listening session. Recommendation 16.2 covers strategies to focus on and decrease the time involved in negotiating cleanup agreements and implementing cleanup work once agreement is finalized. Ms....

A Final Word on EPA’s New Recommendations on Sediment Cleanups

A Final Word on EPA’s New Recommendations on Sediment Cleanups

We recently wrote about a new memorandum from EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management that sets forth eleven recommendations for the agency’s regional offices on how to clean up contaminated sediments, and later covered some of the recommendations in greater detail. Here we discuss the rest of EPA’s recommendations. EPA’s recommendations are shown below in bold text, followed by our comments and analysis. Recommendation 6: Develop risk reduction expectations that are achievable by the remedial action. The National Contingency Plan requires EPA’s remediation goals at a given site to be protective of human health and the environment, but sometimes natural or anthropogenic background concentrations unrelated to the CERCLA release being remediated (especially for persistent contaminants associated with cancer risks, such as PCBs and dioxins) can make it impossible to achieve that goal via the cleanup. In such cases, expectations need to match reality, and the remedy should include additional risk reduction strategies (e.g., fish consumption advisories) to ensure protectiveness. Recommendation 7: Consider the limitations of models in predicting future conditions for purposes of decision making. Environmental professionals, no less than anyone else, can forget that computers are tools that help to inform decisions, but cannot replace human judgment. Even the most sophisticated...

EPA Agrees to Push Back Comment Deadline for Proposed Financial Assurance Regs

EPA Agrees to Push Back Comment Deadline for Proposed Financial Assurance Regs

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently extended the public comment period for a proposed rule which would impose financial assurances requirements for cleanups conducted by companies in the hardrock mining industry, as required by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). In publishing the proposed rule on January 11, 2017, the EPA established a 60-day comment period for impacted parties to present their views on the rule to EPA. An overview of the financial assurance requirements imposed by CERCLA and the details of the proposed rule can be found in our prior posts on June 13, 2016 and January 4, 2017. On February 17, 2017, Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR), Rob Bishop (R-UT), and Bill Shuster (R- PA) asked then-acting EPA Administrator Catherine McCabe to extend the comment period into the summer of 2017, citing the intricacies of the rule and complicated statistics on which EPA relied in drafting the rule. A week later, on February 24, 2017, recently confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt granted the request and extended the comment period by four months, claiming that the extension was in response to dozens of requests from stakeholders, in addition to the letter from the congressmen. Comments...

More on EPA’s New Recommendations on Sediment Cleanups

More on EPA’s New Recommendations on Sediment Cleanups

Last month, we wrote about a new memorandum from the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management that sets forth 11 recommendations for the agency’s regional offices on how to clean up contaminated sediments. Here we discuss some of those recommendations in greater detail. The EPA’s recommendations are shown below in bold text, followed by our comments and analysis. Recommendation 1: Consider early actions during the remedial investigation/feasibility study in site areas presenting high risks to help reduce risks quickly. Here, the EPA advises its regional offices not to wait until the sediments at a site are well characterized before taking steps to reduce serious risks. In many situations, the EPA can use its removal authority to reduce serious risks while other portions of the site are studied. Recommendation 2: Ensure adequate data collection during the remedial investigation/feasibility study to support the evaluation of alternatives. It’s never too early to plan ahead. From the very start of the process, the focus should be on collecting data that will support an eventual evaluation of remedial alternatives. Avoid “study for study’s sake.” Recommendation 3: Evaluate the risks associated with exposures to contaminated sediments, including submerged sediments. While the greatest risks at many sites likely involve...