Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
LA Dept. of Environmental Quality v. EPA
Title V of the Clean Air Act (CCA), 42 U.S.C. 7661-7661f, established an operating permit program to assure compliance with the CAA's requirements during a facility's ongoing operation. In this case, LDEQ petitioned for review of an EPA objection to three title V permits issued by LDEQ to Nucor for an ironmaking facility near the town of Convent, Louisiana. The court dismissed the petition for judicial review because the court lacked jurisdiction where the EPA has not taken final action to issue or deny a permit under title V. View "LA Dept. of Environmental Quality v. EPA" on Justia Law
United States, et al. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp.
A severe rainstorm in 2006 caused two wastewater storage tanks at CITGO's Lake Charles Louisiana refinery to fail and over two million gallons of oil flooded into the surrounding waterways. The United States filed suit against CITGO under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1321, seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief. The district court imposed a $6 million penalty against CITGO and ordered injunctive relief. Both parties appealed. The court concluded that the motion to dismiss was properly denied where there was no diligent prosecution by the State and no jurisdictional issue to resolve; the district court needed to have made a finding on the amount of economic benefit and that such a finding was central to the ability of the district court to assess the statutory factors and for an appellate court to review that assessment; the court vacated the civil penalty award and remanded for re-evaluation; at that time, the district court should reconsider its findings with respect to CITGO's conduct, giving special attention to what CITGO knew prior to the oil spill and its delays in addressing recognized deficiencies; and the court rejected the government's argument that the district court erred with respect to its findings on the amount of oil spilled. View "United States, et al. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law
Starr Indemnity & Liablity Co. v. SGS Petroleum Serv. Corp.
This diversity case involved a dispute over insurance coverage between Starr and SGS. The district court, relying on Matador Petroleum Corp. v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., held that Starr did not need to show prejudice before denying coverage to SGS for late notice under the pollution buy-back provision. Bound by Matador, which concluded that a notice requirement in this type of supplemental pollution endorsement was essential to the bargained-for coverage, the court affirmed the judgment and found SGS's arguments unpersuasive. View "Starr Indemnity & Liablity Co. v. SGS Petroleum Serv. Corp." on Justia Law
Ass’n of Taxicab Operators USA v. City of Dallas
ATO challenged the City's enactment of an ordinance offering taxicabs certified to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) a "head-of-the-line" privilege at a municipally-owned airport. At issue was whether the ordinance was preempted by the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7543(a). The court concluded that the ordinance, enacted using traditional police powers, was not superseded by any clear and manifest purpose of Congress, above all where Congress's term "standard" had been identified as one "susceptible" to a mandate/incentive distinction. The court also concluded that the ordinance could have its intended effect and substitute CNG cabs for traditional cabs at the airport but it did not show that the City's cab drivers faced such acute, albeit indirect, economic effects as to force them to switch vehicles. Accordingly, the ordinance was not preempted by section 209(a) of the Act and the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Ass'n of Taxicab Operators USA v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law
Alford, et al v. Kuhlman Corp.
KEC appealed from the district court's order denying its motion for a declaration and specific performance of the obligations of BorgWarner under the Master Settlement Agreement, the Merger Agreement, and the Cooperation Agreement. This case arose when plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that KEC, BorgWarner, and others improperly disposed and negligently disposed of substances containing toxic chemicals at the Crystal Springs site, where KEC owned a facility manufacturing transformers, and such negligence resulted in injuries to plaintiffs. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court because the terms of the Merger Agreement and Cooperation Agreement were not incorporated into the Master Settlement Agreement, and BorgWarner fulfilled its obligations under the Master Settlement Agreement. View "Alford, et al v. Kuhlman Corp." on Justia Law
Louisiana Generating, L.L.C., et al v. Illinois Union Ins. Co.
This case concerned whether ILU had a duty to defend LaGen in an underlying suit filed against it by the EPA and the LDEQ for alleged Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, and state environmental law violations. Reading all of the relevant provisions together and giving them their plain meaning, the underlying EPA suit included allegations and prayers for relief that could potentially result in covered remediation costs. The court rejected ILU's argument that injunctive relief was excluded from coverage by the Fines and Penalties exclusion. Because the court found that ILU had a duty to defend on other grounds, the court declined to decide on interlocutory appeal whether New York law allowed indemnification for CAA civil penalties. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's holding that under the policy ILU had a duty to defend LaGen in the underlying EPA and LDEQ suit. The court remanded for further proceedings and denied ILU's motion to dismiss LaGen's cross-appeal as moot. View "Louisiana Generating, L.L.C., et al v. Illinois Union Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Republic of Ecuador, et al v. Connor, et al
This case stemmed from Chevron's involvement in litigation over the alleged environmental contamination of oil fields in Ecuador. Ecuador sought discovery from John Connor and GSI Environmental, his company, for use in a foreign arbitration against Chevron. During the course of extended litigation with Ecuador, Chevron, an intervenor in the district court, benefited repeatedly by arguing against Ecuador and others that the arbitration was a "foreign or international tribunal." Because Chevron's previous positions were inconsistent with its current argument, judicial estoppel was appropriate to make discovery under 28 U.S.C. 1782 available for Ecuador. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for determination of the scope of discovery. View "Republic of Ecuador, et al v. Connor, et al" on Justia Law
In Re: Deepwater Horizon
This case stemmed from the multi-district litigation involving the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig oil spill. Plaintiff appealed from the district court's dismissal of its action brought under the citizen-suit provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1365(a)(1), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9659(a), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), 42 U.S.C. 11046(a). The court concluded, with one exception, that the district court did not err by dismissing plaintiff's claims as moot because the Macondo well had been capped and sealed; on the present state of the record, plaintiff had standing to assert its claim for relief based on defendants' alleged failure to comply with the reporting requirements of EPCRA; and the EPCRA claim was not moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re: Deepwater Horizon" on Justia Law
State v. EPA
Sixteen years tardy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disapproved a revision to Texas's plan for implementing the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The untimely disapproval unraveled approximately 140 permits issued by Texas under the revision's terms and required regulated entities to qualify for pre-revision permits or risk federal sanctions. Petitioner - the State of Texas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and representatives of nationwide manufacturing, chemical and petroleum industries - petitioned for review of the EPA's action under the APA. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the EPA's disapproval of Texas's plan, holding that the EPA's disapproval failed APA review, as the EPA based its disapproval on demands for language and program features of the EPA's choosing without basis in the CAA or its implementing regulations. View "State v. EPA" on Justia Law
Luminant Generation Co. v. EPA
Two sets of petitioners sought review of the EPA's final rule partially approving and partially disapproving the most recent revision to Texas's State Implementation Plan (SIP) submitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality pursuant to the Clean Air Act. The portion of the SIP at issue created an affirmative defense against civil penalties for excess emissions during both planned and unplanned startup, shutdown, and maintenance/malfunction (SSM) events. The EPA approved the portion of the SIP revision providing an affirmative defense against civil penalties for unplanned SSM events and disapproved the portion of the SIP revision providing an affirmative defense against civil penalties for planned SSM events. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied both petitions for review, holding that the EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously, or contrary to law, or in excess of its statutory authority, in its partial approval and partial disapproval of Texas's SIP revision. View "Luminant Generation Co. v. EPA" on Justia Law