Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline from South Texas to New York City, sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, including construction of four new pipeline “loops” and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completed the requisite Environmental Assessment and issued the certificate in December 2014, conditioned on Transco’s receipt of “all applicable authorizations under federal law” enumerated in the Environmental Assessment, including from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP, NJDEP) reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit upheld the approvals. NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. View "New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law
Constand v. Cosby
In 2005 Constand alleged that William Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home. During the discovery process, Constand’s counsel took Cosby’s deposition and questioned him regarding whether other women had ingested Quaaludes prior to a sexual encounter with Cosby. The deposition resulted in discovery disputes. The court entered an interim order, requiring the parties to file discovery documents under seal. The Associated Press (AP) moved to intervene and opposed the order. The court denied the motion, stating that the record was not yet sufficient to determine whether a permanent seal was warranted. The sealed documents reveal several damaging admissions during Cosby's deposition, including that he had: engaged in extramarital affairs; acquired Quaaludes and engaged in sexual relations with a woman after she ingested the drug; and given money to one woman and offered money to Constand. Before the court could rule on whether the documents should remain sealed permanently, Cosby and Constand reached a confidential settlement. The case was dismissed. The interim sealing order continued in effect and the documents remained sealed. Though Local Rules require that the Clerk of Court send a notice stating that the documents will be unsealed unless an objection is filed, eight years passed without the Clerk taking action. In 2015, the court unsealed the records, following a request by AP. Finding an appeal moot, the Third Circuit declined to address whether the court properly balanced the public and private interests. View "Constand v. Cosby" on Justia Law
Dela. Riverkeeper Network v. Sec’y Pa. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile Transcontinental pipeline, extending from South Texas to New York City, sought federal approval to expand a portion of the pipeline, called the Leidy Line, which connects gas wells in Central Pennsylvania with the main pipeline. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP; NJDEP) reviewed the proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued permits. Environmental groups challenged the approvals. The Third Circuit concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the petitions and that NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily in issuing the permits. To bar review of PADEP’s actions in permitting an interstate natural gas facility pursuant to the Natural Gas Act and the Clean Water Act would frustrate the purpose of Congress’s grant of jurisdiction and render superfluous the explicit exception from federal judicial review of the Coastal Zone Management Act. The court also rejected NJDEP’s arguments that the court had no jurisdiction over the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits or the Water Quality Certifications, and even if it had jurisdiction over those authorizations, it could not reach issues regarding aspects of Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits that concern transition areas and threatened and endangered species, Letters of Interpretation, or Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits. View "Dela. Riverkeeper Network v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law
Maiden Creek Assocs. LP v. Pa. Dep’t of Transp.
MCA owns 85 acres in Maidencreek Township and hopes to develop into a 600,000 square-foot shopping center. The Township Board of Supervisors has taken the public position that the shopping center is “vital” to the economic well-being of Township residents. MCA and the Board claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to improve an adjacent highway, State Route 222, will impede the project. The highway improvement will be undertaken by PADOT on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, and fully funded by the federal government. MCA claims that the Project should not proceed because planned traffic circles would not be able to handle all of the traffic expected to be generated by its shopping center. The Project was approved in 2014. PADOT determined, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, that the Project qualified a Categorical Exclusion from preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment. MCA and the Board alleged that the Categorical Exclusion approval was based on inaccurate information supplied by PADOT that had not been adequately studied or investigated, and that the findings and conclusions contained therein were arbitrary and capricious. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding the allegations insufficient to establish violation of NEPA. View "Maiden Creek Assocs. LP v. Pa. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law
Group Against Smog & Pollution, Inc. v. Shenango Inc
The environmental group, GASP, sued Shenango, which operates the Neville Island Coke Plant, a coke manufacturing and by-products recovery facility in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The district court dismissed the citizen suit, finding that that the administrative agencies were already “diligently prosecuting” the alleged Clean Air Act violations, so that GASP’s action was prohibited by the diligent prosecution bar of the Act. 42 U.S.C. 7604(b)(1)(B). The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that the diligent prosecution bar of the Act is not a jurisdictional limitation, but that GASP’s action was properly dismissed through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. View "Group Against Smog & Pollution, Inc. v. Shenango Inc" on Justia Law
Indian Harbor Ins. Co v. F&M Equip., Ltd
In 2001, Furnival and its insurer agreed to a Pollution and Remediation Legal Liability Policy, detailing $10 million in liability protection; a 10-year coverage period; and insurance coverage for 12 Furnival locations, including the Elizabethtown Landfill Site, which Furnival was obligated to clean up under a consent decree with the federal government. Insurer knew about the consent decree when the Policy issued. The Policy Endorsements list five reasons for which insurer may “refuse to offer a renewal extension of coverage,” and states that insurer “shall not cancel nor non-renew this Policy except for the reasons stated above.” None of the listed reasons for non-renewal occurred. In 2006, the parties increased the Policy’s limit to $14 million. After the term expired, insurer sent Furnival’s insurance broker its version of a renewal offer, providing $5 million of coverage over a one-year term, omitting coverage for Elizabethtown, the only previously insured site for which Furnival had made a claim, refusing to renew the same terms. The Third Circuit vacated a ruling in favor of insurer, holding that, for a contract to be considered a renewal, it must contain the same, or nearly the same, terms as the original contract. View "Indian Harbor Ins. Co v. F&M Equip., Ltd" on Justia Law