Tagged: CERCLA

A Landmark Step: EPA Designates PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances Under CERCLA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement on April 19, 2024, of its final rule designating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), marks a significant moment in environmental regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). At the same time, the EPA released a new PFAS Enforcement Discretion and Settlement Policy under CERCLA (“Enforcement Policy”). These two announcements have wide-ranging implications for Superfund cleanups, development projects, public health, and the scope of environmental liability under CERCLA. The Persistent Threat of “Forever Chemicals” PFOA and PFOS belong to the PFAS class, a large group of man-made chemicals known for their exceptional resistance to degradation. These chemicals have been widely used since the 1940s in countless industrial applications and consumer products. Their unique chemical structure makes them highly effective in repelling water, oil, and stains. However, this same property also makes them incredibly persistent in the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Over time, PFAS have infiltrated various environmental media, including soil, water, and air. Extensive research over the past few decades has linked PFAS exposure to a range of human health problems, including: Certain cancers, particularly testicular and kidney cancers Liver damage Increased cholesterol levels Thyroid issues Developmental problems in infants and children, including low birth...

Three Large Chemical Companies Agree to Historic PFAS Settlement

Three large American chemical companies, The Chemours Company, DuPont de Nemours, Inc., and Corteva, Inc., recently announced a massive $1.185 billion settlement deal over complaints about the emerging toxic chemicals of concern known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS as they are more commonly referred to. PFAS are synthetic chemicals nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they are persistent and resistant to degradation. They have been used in a wide variety of everyday products and are found in detergents, non-stick pans, stain-resistant and waterproof fabrics, fragrances, drugs, disinfectants, pesticides, and fire-fighting foam. According to a joint statement issued by the three companies and a corresponding question and answer addendum, the $1.185 billion total will be distributed to a so-called “water district settlement fund.” The rate that each company will contribute is consistent with a January 2021 Memorandum of Understanding reached between the companies, in which Chemours agreed to a 50-50 split of qualified expenses with both DuPont and Corteva. Under the settlement, Chemours will pay half (approx. $592 million), and DuPont (approx. $400 million) and Corteva (approx. $193 million) will contribute the remaining 50 percent to the fund. As part of the settlement agreement, the three companies do not admit fault in the cases and deny the allegations. Once the settlement is finalized, which the parties...

EPA Amending Standards for Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is set to amend the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule (AAI Rule), the standard for evaluating a property’s environmental conditions prior to purchase, which may impact a purchaser’s potential liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for any contamination discovered at the property. Those affected by this amendment include both public and private parties who are purchasing potentially contaminated properties and wish to establish a limitation on CERCLA liability as bona fide prospective purchasers, contiguous property owners, or innocent landowners. In addition, any entity conducting a site characterization or assessment on a property with funding from a brownfields grant awarded under CERCLA Section 104(k)(2)(B)(ii) may be affected by this action. The AAI Rule first went into effect in 2006 and has been subject to amendments since that time. The current amendments will become effective on February 13, 2023, and will reference a new standard – “ASTM E1527-21” – that may be used to satisfy the requirements for conducting all appropriate inquiries under CERCLA. Significant changes within the new standard include, but are not limited to: Revised and new definitions to make requirements clearer than the prior 2013 standard Requirements for more specific information related to the subject property’s use, as well as historical research related...

In a Case of First Impression in the Second Circuit, the District Court Clarifies When the Statute of Limitations Begins to Run on a Natural Resource Damages Claim Under CERLCA

A case that shares the elements of a crime thriller – massive illegal dumping of toxic construction debris in a public park and playground, corrupt public officials, a special grand jury investigation and criminal prosecutions – has broken new ground on when the statute of limitations runs on a natural resource damages claim. Seggos v. Datre, a case relating to the closure of a public park in an environmental justice area due to illegal dumping of hazardous waste, will proceed now that a federal judge has rejected a request brought by 17 law firms to find that it had been filed too late. The complaint in the case, pending in the U.S. District Court the Eastern District of New York, alleged that in 2013 and 2014, tens of thousands of tons of construction and demolition debris and related waste (“C&D”) were dumped in Roberto Clemente Park (“Park”) in the hamlet of Brentwood, New York, an environmental justice community located in the Town of Islip on Long Island. The C&D was brought to the Park from construction sites throughout the New York City metropolitan area. The New York Attorney General, suing on behalf of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner and the State of New York (together, the “State”), brought the case to...

No, That Doesn’t Settle It: U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Which Types of Settlements Trigger CERCLA Contribution Rights

The complex and overlapping nature of the three different routes to recovering cleanup costs under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) has bedeviled courts for decades. This month, in Territory of Guam v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court answered one very narrow question: What kind of a settlement with the government gives a settling party the right to bring an action for contribution against a non-settlor?

Thomson West Releases 2020-2021 Update of Business Law Deskbook, With Two Environmental Law Chapters Authored By Gibbons Attorney

The recently released 2020-2021 update of the Thomson West New Jersey Business Law Deskbook includes chapters authored by Paul M. Hauge, Counsel in the Gibbons P.C. Environmental Law Department. Mr. Hauge authored Chapter 26, which discusses the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and Chapter 27, on New Jersey Environmental Law. The Deskbook, updated annually to reflect statutory, regulatory, and judicial developments, is designed to give attorneys user-friendly primers on roughly 40 areas of business law. Gibbons Environmental Law Department Director Susanne Peticolas pioneered the firm’s involvement with the Deskbook in 2003, authoring the Gibbons contributions until 2007 and sharing authorship with Mr. Hauge between 2008 and 2019.

David J. Freeman to Co-Chair N.Y. State Bar Superfund and Brownfields Update Webinar

David J. Freeman, a Director in the Gibbons Environmental Department, will serve as Program Co-Chair for “Superfund/Brownfield Update 2020: Federal and State Environmental Law and Policy.” The program is sponsored by the Section of Environmental & Energy Law of the New York State Bar Association and will be presented as a webinar on December 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The program will feature presentations by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and private bar and expert consultants regarding recent developments in the federal Superfund and New York State Brownfield programs. There will also be panels discussing the proposed new ASTM standards for the conduct of Phase I environmental site assessments and the operation of New York State’s land banks. The keynote speaker will be Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters and New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Her timely topic will be “How the 2020 Election Will Affect the Environmental Agenda at the Federal and State Levels.” A full description of the program, and instructions on how to register, can be found here.

William Hatfield to Participate in Upcoming Strafford Webinar – “Practical Tips and Lessons Learned for Asserting Divisibility in CERCLA Litigation in Federal Court” – November 19

William S. Hatfield, a Director in the Gibbons Environmental Department, will participate in an upcoming panel discussion presented by Strafford. The panel, “Practical Tips and Lessons Learned for Asserting Divisibility in CERCLA Litigation in Federal Court,” will take place virtually on Thursday, November 19 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET. The panel will analyze how recent court decisions have addressed divisibility and apportionment in CERCLA litigation. Panelists will also guide environmental counsel and professionals on when and how the divisibility of harm defense is appropriate, offer practical tips, and discuss the legal and technical challenges in establishing divisibility. The discussion will be interactive, allowing for questions and answers, and CLE credits will be offered. For additional information or to register, click here.

That Mine Is Yours, Not Theirs: Ninth Circuit Holds That WWII Shutdown Order Did Not Make Federal Government the CERCLA “Operator” of California Gold Mine

One perennially vexing issue for federal courts in cases brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law, is what makes someone an “operator” of a facility, and thus strictly (and, in most cases, jointly and severally) liable for cleanup costs. In particular, what degree and nature of control over a facility exercised by the government make it an operator? (We recently blogged on this issue.) In its recent decision in United States v. Sterling Centrecorp Inc., a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit held that a World War II-era federal order that shut down a gold mine in California did not give the government sufficient control over the operations of the mine to make it a CERCLA operator. Upon entering World War II, the United States faced a serious shortage of nonferrous metals, especially copper, and a corresponding shortage of the machinery and materials needed to produce them. Scarce resources needed to be redirected from nonessential operations to essential ones, and gold mines, such as the Lava Cap mine in Nevada County, California, were deemed nonessential. An order of the War Production Board required the mine to cease operations in 1943. While the order was revoked in 1945, operations at the mine never resumed. It was...