Unraveling Environmental Legal Complexities: Lessons from the Clarios Case and RIP Waivers

A recent February 5, 2024, decision by the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division delivered a significant blow to Clarios, LLC (Clarios), a car battery manufacturer facing environmental scrutiny at its New Brunswick plant. This recent decision has echoed through the environmental legal landscape, leaving companies contemplating the use of Remediation in Progress Waivers (RIP waivers) with critical questions and a renewed sense of caution. The case, far from offering definitive answers, instead highlights the intricate interplay between property rights, environmental stewardship, and the nuances of due process protections. Moreover, the court’s denial of Clarios’s request to postpone remediation has broader implications for scenarios involving joint liability agreements and property transactions, highlighting the complex challenges associated with RIP waivers. By dissecting the court’s reasoning and its implications, we gain valuable insights into the limitations and prudent utilization of RIP waivers, ensuring responsible environmental practices and mitigating unintended legal consequences.

Decoding the Chain of Title of the RIP Waiver

The complex history of the RIP waiver granted to Clarios in 2007 finds its roots in the ownership transition of the site. Delphi Automotive Systems, LLC (Delphi), the former owner, had been manufacturing automobile batteries at the location. In 2006, Delphi sold the property to Johnson Controls Battery Group, Inc., a corporate predecessor of Clarios, triggering a sequence of regulatory actions. As part of the Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA) compliance, Delphi filed a General Information Notice (GIN) with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), marking the initiation of a remediation agreement for the site. Likewise, NJDEP mandated Delphi’s responsibility for the remediation efforts.

In January 2007, Clarios made a significant announcement, revealing plans to cease operations at the site. Subsequently, Clarios submitted a GIN and applied for an RIP waiver from NJDEP. NJDEP granted the RIP waiver, contingent on Clarios satisfying statutory requirements, including submitting a preliminary assessment report for the site, ensuring no hazardous substance discharge during Clarios’s ownership, and establishing a remediation funding source (RFS) equal to the estimated costs of remediation. Following the RIP waiver approval, Clarios conveyed the site to DeNovo New Brunswick, LLC (DeNovo), a move that set the stage for subsequent developments in the legal saga.

Understanding the ongoing remediation timeline is crucial to grasping the significance of the 2007 Clarios RIP waiver. An RIP waiver is granted only if active remediation is in progress, and the 2006 Delphi remediation served as the foundation for the Clarios waiver issued in 2007. Notably, DeNovo wouldn’t assume responsibility for Delphi’s remediation efforts until 2013. Furthermore, only in 2019 did the RFS assigned to DeNovo fall below the estimated cost of remediation. This intricate timeline connects the historical remediation efforts initiated by Delphi with the subsequent events leading to NJDEP’s intervention and the ultimate rescission of the RIP waiver.

NJDEP’s Intervention in 2022

Fast forward to 2022, and the narrative takes a turn. DeNovo, unfortunately, strayed from their environmental obligations, failing to maintain a sufficient RFS and submitting an incomplete remedial investigation report, which ultimately triggered NJDEP’s intervention. NJDEP, citing non-compliance, rescinded the RIP waiver, reinstating Clarios’s responsibility for completing the remediation – a financial burden Clarios had sought to avoid.

Legal Analysis – Due Process and Property Interests

Unsurprisingly, Clarios contested the rescission and sought an adjudicatory hearing pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, raising the issue of due process. Clarios argued that NJDEP’s action, by depriving Clarios of the waiver’s benefits without a prior hearing, violated its constitutional right to due process. This claim hinged on its assertion that the RIP waiver conferred a “property interest” protected by due process guarantees. NJDEP denied Clarios’s request for an adjudicatory hearing and Clarios appealed.

The Appellate Division meticulously analyzed Clarios’s argument and rejected it. The court emphasized the distinction between temporary benefits and protected property interests. While acknowledging the economic benefit Clarios enjoyed through the transfer, the court clarified that this did not translate into a property interest in the legal sense. The RIP waiver, the court explained, provided a circumscribed benefit: the ability to transfer ownership prior to completing the cleanup pursuant to ISRA. Once the transfer occurred, Clarios had fully utilized the waiver’s advantage. Moreover, the court highlighted that the waiver explicitly reserved NJDEP’s right to take enforcement actions, negating any legitimate expectation of the waiver’s indefinite validity.


The Clarios case has implications beyond just RIP waivers. It serves as a stark illustration of NJDEP’s unwavering commitment to holding all responsible parties accountable for environmental obligations, irrespective of contractual arrangements or the passage of time. This principle carries significant weight in shaping environmental liability strategies in property transactions and underscores the need for companies to remain vigilant and proactive in navigating their long-term responsibilities.

In conclusion, the Clarios case reveals the delicate balance between property rights, environmental responsibility, and due process. Exploring this legal saga provides insights into the limitations of RIP waivers, urging a proactive and responsible approach to environmental compliance. The Clarios case also sheds light on the complex legal aspects surrounding RIP waivers, joint liability agreements, and property transactions with environmental responsibilities. Understanding these intricacies empowers companies to make informed decisions, manage risks effectively, and maintain compliance with environmental regulations.

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