A recent federal district court decision shows how a consent decree can provide protection to responsible parties under CERCLA by precluding later-filed tort claims seeking additional relief or different remedial action.
Continue Reading Federal Court Finds Tort Claims Preempted by CERCLA Consent Decree

Last week, in Residents of Gordon Plaza, Inc. v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc of a recent decision affirming the dismissal of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit. The key issue in the underlying appeal, 25 F.4th 288 (5th Cir. 2022), was whether certain maintenance activities qualify as a “removal” action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court affirmed that the maintenance activities do indeed constitute a “removal action.” Therefore, the suit was barred under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(B)(iv), which precludes RCRA citizen suits where a “responsible party is diligently conducting a removal action” pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree with EPA.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Endorses Broad Reading of “Removal” Under CERCLA To Bar RCRA Citizen Suit

Two recent actions by the Biden Administration will identify areas of focus for environmental justice and therefore influence environmental enforcement priorities, federal permitting and licensing, and federal spending, among other actions. On February 18, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released the beta (or draft) version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a key component of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative set the goal of “delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments” to disadvantaged communities. The CEJST serves a specific purpose: to help agencies identify disadvantaged communities in order to direct federal benefits and help agencies measure whether 40 percent of benefits are being received by those communities.
Continue Reading Biden Administration Rolls Out New Climate, Economic, and Environmental Justice Tools

EPA hopes to issue its final National Recycling Strategy (NRS) this November, according to recent statements by acting director of EPA’s Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division, Office of Land and Emergency Management Nena Shaw at the American Bar Association’s Fall Conference. Previously, EPA indicated it intended to finalize the NRS in the spring of 2021 with an implementation roadmap out in the fall of 2021. To date, the agency has yet to release its final NRS.
Continue Reading Waste Not, Want Not: EPA’s Impending National Recycling Strategy

Recent federal court decisions continue to show that Article III standing can be a formidable defense to environmental citizen suits, particularly following the Supreme Court’s decision Spokeo v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016).
Continue Reading Article III Standing Still Proving to be a Formidable Defense to Environmental Citizen Suits

Barack Obama was seven months into his first term as President of the United States, the World Health Organization had declared a H1N1 flu pandemic, and the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) adopted the current Construction General Permit for Stormwater Discharges (Permit or CGP).  It was September 2009.  Now, having administratively extended the Permit since 2014 when, by its terms, the Permit expired, the State Board may, under a schedule released late last year, soon release a new draft CGP for public comment, with a goal of adopting it late this summer.

Continue Reading Last Adopted in 2009, California State Water Board Working on New Construction Stormwater General Permit for 2021

In April 2020, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al., 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2000), vacating the Ninth Circuit’s decision.  The appeals court had affirmed a district court’s finding of Clean Water Act (“CWA”) liability for the County’s alleged failure to obtain a discharge permit for subsurface releases of pollutants into groundwater that conveys pollutants to navigable waters.  In vacating the judgment below, the Supreme Court rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “fairly traceable” test and set forth a new standard for determining when a source needs an NPDES permit:  “the statute requires a permit when there is a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge.”  Id. at 1468 (emphasis added).  In other words, “an addition falls within the statutory requirement that it be ‘from any point source’ when a point source directly deposits pollutants into navigable waters, or when the discharge reaches the same result through roughly similar means.”  Id. at 1476 (emphasis added).
Continue Reading Groups Seeking to Expand Reach of Clean Water Act

On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Prepublication Notice finalizing its proposed decisions to not impose Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Section 108(b) financial assurance requirements on three industries (Industries):

  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution;
  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, and
  • Chemical Manufacturing.

EPA’s final rules neither remove any existing requirements nor impose additional, new requirements.  The final rulemakings will not affect EPA’s authority to take CERCLA response or enforcement action with respect to any particular facility or industry, nor will they affect EPA’s authority under other environmental statutes that may be applicable to the facility.  The final rules also will not affect EPA’s existing practice of imposing financial assurance requirements in CERCLA settlements and orders, which already provide protection against bankruptcies and other financial calamities that may impact performing parties at Superfund sites. [1]

Continue Reading EPA Declines to Impose CERCLA Financial Assurance Requirements on Three Industry Sectors

On October 19, 2020, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) will begin enforcing the state’s ban on single-use carryout plastic bags. Enforcement was delayed from earlier this year due to a legal challenge, which has since been resolved. Those persons found to be in violation of the ban face a range of consequences from a simple warning for a first offense and civil penalties thereafter. Grocery stores, retailers, and other establishments in New York that may be the target of enforcement will want to carefully review the provisions of this ban and their obligations going forward.

Continue Reading New York to Commence Enforcement of Plastic Carryout Bag Ban