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. Federal Government and the State of New York jointly announced on May 11, 2015 a $12 million settlement with Tonawanda Coke Corporation for a litany of alleged environmental violations at TCC's western New York coke manufacturing facility.
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.
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?
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.
EPA has just extended to tenants the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser ("BFPP") protection, by which Congress previously exempted certain prospective owners from harsh Superfund liability. Even where the landlord loses its BFPP protection, the new EPA enforcement guidance memo allows tenants to hold onto it, assuming the tenant can meet certain requirements.
How do you clean up something as big and messy as the Gowanus Canal? On January 23-24, 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency will explain and defend its December 27, 2012, "Proposed Plan" for remediating the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY. The Proposed Plan formally identifies EPA's "preferred remedy" for the pollution in the Gowanus Canal-a technical term which actually describes a range of actions plans to take to clean up the canal-and explains its choices. The Plan resulted from the investigation it has conducted to date, including the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study is released in 2011.