Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Concord v. Water Department of Littleton
The Supreme Judicial Court held that should Littleton, Acton, or both towns choose to exercise their rights to take the waters of Nagog Pond and apply for a permit under the Water Management Act (WMA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21G, a special act passed by the Legislature in 1884 - St. 1884, c. 201 (1884 act) - the WMA will not provide the towns with a priority right over Concord's registration.The 1884 act granted Concord the right to use Nagog Pond, located in Littleton and Acton, as a public water supply. The act, however, provided that Littleton, Acton, or both could take the pond waters and that their water needs "shall be first supplied." Because Concord had exercised its rights under the 1884 act but Littleton and Acton had not exercised their rights, at issue was whether those rights still existed after the passage of the WMA. The Supreme Court held (1) the WMA impliedly repealed the provision in the 1884 act that provided that the needs of the residents of Littleton and Acton "shall be first supplied"; but (2) the WMA did not impliedly repeal the provisions of the 1884 act that granted Concord the right to "take and hold" the Nagog Pond waters. View "Concord v. Water Department of Littleton" on Justia Law
New England Power Generators Ass’n v. Department of Environmental Protection
The Supreme Judicial Court upheld 310 Code Mass. Regs. 7.74 (Cap Regulation), which imposes declining greenhouse gas emissions limits on the in-State electric sector through 2050, holding that none of the arguments raised by Plaintiffs against the Cap Regulation was meritorious.Plaintiffs argued, among other things, that a key provision of the Global Warming Solutions Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), which directs the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate regulations establishing declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions, does not apply to the electric sector because that sector is regulated by a separate provision, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(c). The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the Department and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have the authority to promulgate regulations under section 3(d) to establish emission limits on the electric sector; (2) the projected effects of the Cap Regulation do not render section 3(d) arbitrary and capricious or inconsistent with the statutory purpose of reducing emissions; and (3) the Legislature did not intend to render section 3(d) meaningless after December 31, 2020. View "New England Power Generators Ass’n v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law
Miramar Park Ass’n. v. Town of Dennis
At issue was whether dredging and beach nourishment projects undertaken by the Town of Dennis requiring that materials dredged from the mouth of a tidal river be deposited on a publicly-owned beach rather than a privately-owned beach violated state environmental regulations.Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment claiming that the Town’s actions violated a regulation of the Department of Environmental Protection designed to protect beaches that are downdraft from jetties from loss of sediments caused by the jetties. The superior court allowed Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and issued an injunction permanently requiring the Town periodically to redredge the river and to deposit the dredged material on Plaintiffs’ private beach.The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of injunction and reversed the judgment allowing summary judgment for Plaintiffs, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to show that the Town’s extension of the jetty violated the requirements of 310 Code Mass. Regs. 10.27(4)(c); and (2) the Town’s subsequent dredging of the river did not trigger the requirements of that regulation. View "Miramar Park Ass’n. v. Town of Dennis" on Justia Law
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Attorney General
There was personal jurisdiction over Exxon Mobil Corporation with respect to the Attorney General’s investigation into whether Exxon knew, long before the general public, that emissions from fossil fuels contributed to climate change and whether the company sought to undermine the evidence of climate change in order to preserve its value as a company.Based on her authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 6, the Attorney General issued a civil investigative demand (CID) to Exxon Mobil Corporation seeking information and documents relating to Exxon’s knowledge of and activities related to climate change. Exxon moved to set aside or modify the CID, arguing that it was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts, that the Attorney General should be disqualified for bias, that the CID violated Exxon’s statutory and constitutional rights, and that the case should be stayed pending a ruling on Exxon’s request for relief in federal court. A superior court denied the motion and allowed the Attorney General’s cross motion to compel Exxon to comply with the CID. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was personal jurisdiction over Exxon; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Exxon’s requests to set aside the CID, disqualify the Attorney General, and issue a stay. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Attorney General" on Justia Law
Grand Manor Condominium Ass’n v. City of Lowell
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court rendering judgment on a jury’s verdict finding that Plaintiffs’ claim for damages to Plaintiffs’ property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 5(a)(iii) was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 11A(4). Plaintiffs filed their claims against the city of Lowell for the release of hazardous materials at a condominium site. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) a plaintiff must be on notice that he or she has a claim under section 5(a)(iii) before that claim may be time barred, and such notice is separate from a plaintiff’s notice that environmental contamination has occurred; and (2) Plaintiffs in this case could not know that they had a claim under section 5 before the date the City filed its Phase II/Phase III report pursuant to the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, and therefore, the statute of limitations issues should not have been presented to the jury. View "Grand Manor Condominium Ass’n v. City of Lowell" on Justia Law
Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations require that those deemed to be liable after a spill of hazardous materials within a specified radius of a public water supply undertake cleanup and monitoring to ensure the spill does not pose a danger to that water supply, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0801, 40.0810, 40.0993(3)(a), 40.1030(2)(e). A 2007 modification exempts "oil" from some requirements when specific conditions are met, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0924(2)(b)(3)(a). Peterborough owns a now-vacant Athol property, within a protection area, where it operated a gasoline station for more than 10 years. In 1994, a release of leaded gasoline from a subterranean gasoline storage tank was detected in soil on the site. DEP required Peterborough to undertake supervised cleanup and monitoring activities. In 2008, after the oil exemption was established, Peterborough submitted a revised plan, stating that further remediation was not required because the entirety of the spill fell within the exemption's definition of "oil." DEP responded that the meaning of "oil" in the exemption does not include gasoline additives such as lead, but refers only to petroleum hydrocarbons naturally occurring in oils, so that a spill of leaded gasoline could not be completely excluded from further remediation. The trial court, on summary judgment, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, upheld the DEP interpretation of the regulation as reasonable. View "Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law
Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), the Department of Environmental Protection was required to promulgate regulations “establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions” by a certain date. When the Department failed to take action by the statutory deadline, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus, arguing that the Department had failed to fulfill its statutory mandate under section 3(d). The superior court judge entered judgment in the Department’s favor, concluding that the Department substantially complied with the requirements of section 3(d). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the three regulatory initiatives cited by the Department fell short of complying with the requirements of section 3(d). Remanded. View "Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law