When is a tenant liable as an owner under the federal Superfund law (aka CERCLA)?
A recent federal case in New York was a reminder that in contract litigation, the parties should be careful what they claim about how "unambiguous" a contract provision assigning environmental liabilities, as elsewhere, and that in contract drafting, even apparently simple phrases have certain meanings and not others. The indirect lesson is that business people should not assume that environmental and real estate lawyers' insistence on the use of very specific terms in contracts is more academic than practical and serves no useful purpose. Indeed, the care with which such terms were defined and used provided the winning margin for Cytec Industries (Cytec).
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently declined to consider a case centering on the question of when a citizens' group may challenge an ongoing environmental remediation under the federal Superfund law. The Court's decision lets stand a May 2014 ruling by the Seventh Circuit that chipped away at Superfund's general prohibition on legal challenges to ongoing removal or remedial actions.
In a triumph of environmental responsibility and justice over corporate attempts to disclaim environmental liabilities, the former Kerr-McGee Corporation has been ordered to clean up after itself.
Can a party who is not the holder of a certain environmental permit be required to perform the obligations set out in that permit? The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thought so, and argued as much in the case of a property owner who had purchased land where a hazardous waste storage facility had operated years earlier. The purchaser, Thompson Corners, LLC, had never held a permit to operate the facility, which had closed years before the purchase, and was never required to obtain one.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Council passed a flurry of laws designed to increase the resiliency of the City during future storm events. One of these laws, Local Law 143, requires operators of facilities that store hazardous substances to file additional information with the City under the Community Right to Know Program. Local Law 143, together with related amendments to the New York City Administrative Code, became effective March 30, 2014 and may change what your facility needs to report for 2015 reporting year. Will your facility be ready to comply with the new requirements?
Here's a pop quiz: after an eleven week trial in federal court, a jury hands down a verdict of nearly $105 million against ExxonMobil for contaminating New York City's drinking water. On appeal, the verdict is upheld. What environmental law enabled the jury to find, and the appellate court to affirm, such a large verdict? The Superfund Law? The Clean Water Act? The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act?
In a move that has made industry insiders "ecstatic," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed a final rule on July 22, 2013 which will exclude certain solvent-contaminated industrial rags or wipes from regulation under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The new rule excludes solvent-contaminated reusable wipes from regulation as solid waste (40 CFR 261.4(a)), and excludes solvent-contaminated disposable wipes from regulation as hazardous waste (40 CFR 261.4(b)(18)) under RCRA.
Many insurance policies contain a "pollution exclusion" which seeks to exclude coverage for losses arising from pollution, except in the case of a "sudden and accidental" release. "Sudden and accidental" may bring to mind a burst pipe or overturned tanker truck, but a recent decision in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York suggests that the interpretation can be much more complicated.
On March 7, 2013, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to extend the moratorium in place on high pressure horizontal hydraulic fracturing - hydrofracking or fracking - of shale that has been in place since 2008. Though the bill, Assembly Bill 5424-A, passed the Assembly by a wide margin of 95 to 40, the legislation must still be approved by the State Senate and signed by Governor Cuomo before taking effect. It is unclear if the Senate, which is controlled through a power sharing agreement among Republicans, Democrats and the Independent Democratic Caucus, will act on the bill.