Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
In re: September 11 Litigation
Cedar & Washington, a real estate developer, filed suit against the owners and lessees of the World Trade Center and others under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675, seeking recovery of costs incurred in remediating a nearby building contaminated by the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The court concluded that the attack constituted an "act of war" for purposes of CERCLA's affirmative defense. The attacks directly and immediately caused the release of harmful substances (WTC dust), and were the "sole cause" of the release because the attack "overwhelm[ed] and swamp[ed] the contributions of the defendant[s]." Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Cedar & Washington's claim. View "In re: September 11 Litigation" on Justia Law
Price Trucking Corp. v. Norampac Indus., Inc.
Defendant paid a general contractor for costs associated with the cleanup of a contaminated parcel of land that defendant owned. After the general contractor failed to remit those payments to plaintiff, a subcontractor who performed the work, plaintiff sought payment directly from defendant. The court concluded that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9607, did not grant the subcontractor a right to recovery against defendant in these circumstances where defendant would effectively be required to pay twice for the same work performed. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiff and remanded with instructions to grant summary judgment to defendant. View "Price Trucking Corp. v. Norampac Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
State of New York v. Next Millennium Realty
The State filed suit against defendants under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq. The State sought to recover costs incurred in investigating and addressing groundwater contamination in the Town of Hempstead caused by pollution emanating from the New Cassel Industrial Area (NCIA). The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action as time-barred by the six year statute of limitations governing suits to recover costs for remedial actions under section 9613(g)(2)(B). The court held that the cleanup activities here were implemented as removal measures and continued to be removal measures at all relevant times. Accordingly, the district court erred in applying the statute of limitations for remedial rather than removal actions. The court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "State of New York v. Next Millennium Realty" on Justia Law
United States v. Manne
This case arose when appellant settled an environmental enforcement action brought against him by the United States through a consent decree providing, inter alia, that defendant would pay the government an amount equal to the fair market value of a parcel of real property owned by appellant. At issue on appeal was whether a district court, under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. 1651(a), and the Anti-Injunction Act, 22 U.S.C. 2283, had the authority to enjoin a party from litigating in state court issues arising out of the consent decree which settled the civil action brought against the party in federal court by the United States. The court held that the Anti-Injunction Act did not permit the district court in this case to enjoin appellant's state court suit. Accordingly, the court vacated the injunction, concluding that the district court erred by relying on the "in aid of jurisdiction" exception to the Anti-Injunction Act in enjoining appellant's state court suit. View "United States v. Manne" on Justia Law
In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig.
This case involved long-running multidistrict litigation concerning contamination of groundwater by the organic compound MTBE, which was used as a gasoline additive by Exxon and others. The court concluded that the state law tort verdict against Exxon was not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401; the jury's finding that the MTBE levels in Station Six Wells will peak at 10ppb in 2033 was not inconsistent with a conclusion that the City had been injured; the City's suit was ripe because the City demonstrated a present injury and the suit was not barred by the statute of limitations; the jury's verdict finding Exxon liable under state tort law theories was not precluded by the jury's concurrent conclusion that the City had not carried its burden, in the design-defect context, of demonstrating a feasible, cost-reasonable alternative to MTBE available to satisfy the standards of the now-repealed Reformulated Gasoline Program; Exxon's demand for a retrial because of an incident of juror misconduct was unavailing; the jury properly offset the gross damages award by amounts it reasonably attributed to cleanup of contaminants other than MTBE; and the City was not entitled to a jury determination of Exxon's liability for punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety. View "In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig." on Justia Law
Brodsky v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The NRC granted Entergy an exemption from compliance with certain fire safety regulations at its Indian Point nuclear plant operating unit No. 3. Plaintiffs alleged that the NRC's award of the exemption to Entergy violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), 42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq., and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Entergy on all of these claims except in one respect. Insofar as plaintiffs contended that the NRC granted the challenged exemption in violation of NEPA's regulations, which allowed for public involvement where appropriate and practicable, the court concluded that the agency record did not permit a reviewing court to determine whether a reasoned basis existed for the NRC's decision not to afford any such public involvement in the exemption decision. View "Brodsky v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law
State of New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation
In 2003, the Shinnecock Indian Nation entered began construction of a 61,000-square-foot casino on 80 acres in Southampton, New York. The Tribe did not obtain permits from the state or the town, but began bulldozing trees and brush. The state sued in state court, alleging that the planned casino violates state law, and is outside the scope of the IGRA (a federal act authorizing tribal gaming under certain conditions) because the Tribe is not federally recognized and the site is not “Indian lands” and that construction would violate state environmental laws. The Shinnecock removed the case to federal court on the basis that the complaint pleaded issues of federal law. The State moved to remand the action to state court, arguing that its complaint is based entirely on violations of New York state law, that removal was based on the complaint’s anticipation of defenses, and that the its reference to the IGRA asserts only that the IGRA does not apply. The district court denied remand, conducted a bench trial, and granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the Shinnecock from building a casino without complying with state and local law. The Second Circuit vacated, holding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "State of New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation" on Justia Law
Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Hudson River-Black River Regulating Dist.
National Grid challenged the constitutional and statutory authority of the District, a New York public benefit corporation, to assess it for benefits that its property along the Hudson River received from a dam and reservoir that the District operated. National Grid argued that the District's assessment and apportionment scheme was federally preempted by the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 803(f), 821, and that even if the assessment authority existed, all assessments made prior to 2010 violated National Grid's protection rights under the U.S. Constitution and constituted impermissible takings under the U.S. and New York State constitutions. Because the FPA did not preempt the District's authority under New York state law to assess National Grid as it did here, the court affirmed the district court's judgment as to federal preemption. The court further found that National Grid had abandoned its appeal of the district court's dismissal of the DEC from this action, and in any event, that the district court's dismissal of the DEC was proper. However, because the court concluded that abstention was not warranted as to National Grid's remaining constitutional claims, the court remanded those claims to the district court for resolution, expressing no view on their merits. View "Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Hudson River-Black River Regulating Dist." on Justia Law
State of New York v. Solvent Chemical
Plaintiff sought contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675, for both past and future costs of cleaning up industrial pollution. The district court awarded contribution for past cleanup costs but declined to issue a declaratory judgment as to future contribution. The court reversed the denial of a declaratory judgment and held that the judgment would serve a useful purpose in settling the legal issues involved, the judgment was not being used for procedural gamesmanship or a race to res judicata, it would not increase friction between sovereign legal systems, and there was no better or effective remedy. The court noted that it would not matter that a declaratory judgment of liability alone would not finalize the controversy and offer relief from all uncertainty. Numerous other issues raised on appeal were decided in a summary order issued simultaneously with this opinion. View "State of New York v. Solvent Chemical" on Justia Law
Natural Res. Def. Council v. EPA
This case stemmed from the use of the pesticide dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate (DDVP) to kill many types of insects. The NRDC sought review of an EPA order overruling the NRDC's objections to, inter alia, the EPA's risk assessments for the pesticide and denying NRDC's requests for a public evidentiary hearing. Because the EPA conducted certain DDVP risk assessments without using a tenfold children's safety factor that Congress provided should presumptively apply, and the EPA failed to explain why it did not apply this margin of safety, the court granted the NRDC's petition for review in part, vacated the EPA's order in part, and remanded for further proceedings.