Tagged: Natural Resource Damages

NJ Seeks to Expand Reach of the Spill Act in PCB Contamination Suit Against Monsanto and Others

On August 4, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued a press release announcing a lawsuit of sweeping, breathtaking scope against Monsanto, Solutia, and Pharmacia ─ all linked to the original Monsanto (“Old Monsanto”), which reorganized its businesses into three separate corporations in the late 1990s ─ seeking natural resource damages (NRDs) for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination across the entire state of New Jersey. Old Monsanto formerly operated a large industrial facility in Bridgeport, an unincorporated community in Logan Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey (the “Bridgeport Site”). In addition to the claims for statewide PCB contamination, the complaint seeks NRDs and other relief in connection with the Bridgeport Site. The suit alleges the three defendants contaminated the area in and around the Bridgeport Site through discharges of many chemicals, including PCBs, over decades of operations at that site. PCBs are a class of toxic synthetic organic chemical compounds that enter the environment by escaping their intended applications, passing into water bodies, sediment, and soils. In a statement announcing the suit, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said that “PCBs contamination has harmed natural resources and threatened the health of humans and wildlife in every corner of New Jersey . . . includ[ing] many environmental justice communities ─ communities throughout our State that...

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...

A Refinery Is Not a Gas Station: N.J. Court Says Former Oil Operation Was Abnormally Dangerous Activity

The 1976 Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”) gave New Jersey a wide variety of new powers to address, and seek reimbursement for, environmental contamination. Despite its broad new remedies, however, it did not pre-empt or “subsume” common-law theories such as strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. Moreover, the historical operations at an oil refinery and terminal that resulted in substantial discharges and pollution of nearby waterways could constitute an abnormally dangerous activity. So held the Appellate Division in its recent opinion in New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Hess Corporation. Hess involves a property in the Port Reading section of Woodbridge historically operated as an oil refinery and terminal. In its 2018 complaint against Hess (which developed the property in 1958 when it was known as Amerada Hess Corporation) and Buckeye Partners, LP (which acquired the property from Hess in 2013), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) alleged discharges of oil affecting the nearby Smith Creek and Arthur Kill during Hess’s period of ownership.  The NJDEP asserted claims under the Spill Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, strict liability, trespass, and public nuisance, seeking both injunctive relief and money damages in connection with the defendants’ failure to assess injuries to natural resources and to restore the injured resources. Hess and Buckeye...

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman to Serve as Co-Chair for NYS-NYC Bar Program

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman will serve as Program Co-Chair of an upcoming New York State Bar/New York City Bar conference on Federal and New York State brownfield and Superfund programs. The conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on December 12, 2019 at the New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. The program’s distinguished faculty includes New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez, and other officials from the EPA, the New York State of Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the New York State Office of Attorney General, and the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation. The topics to be discussed will include: trends in federal Superfund enforcement, including natural resource damages claims and the impact of the Superfund Task Force recommendations; NYSDEC policies and practices in implementing the 2015 Amendments to the Brownfield Cleanup Act; the intersection between Superfund and brownfields, focusing on developments at the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site; and an analysis of case law developments in these areas. Click here for a brochure describing the program and here for a further description and registration information.

New Jersey Appellate Division Upholds $225 Million NJDEP Settlement With Exxon Mobil for Natural Resource Damages

In 2004, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sued Exxon Mobil Corporation under the Spill Act to recover natural resource damages (NRDs) for the Bayway refinery in Linden and another facility in Bayonne. Fourteen years later, New Jersey’s Appellate Division has upheld a consent judgment, entered by Judge Michael J. Hogan after a sixty-day bench trial, that settled NJDEP’s claims at the Bayway and Bayonne sites as well as 16 other Exxon facilities (including a terminal in Paulsboro) and over 1,000 retail gas stations, in exchange for a record payment of $225 million. In addition to the validity of the consent judgment itself, the case presented a number of important procedural questions regarding the ability of the non-party appellants – here, State Senator Raymond Lesniak and several environmental organizations – to participate in the litigation and to appeal from the trial court’s entry of the consent judgment. First, the Court upheld the trial court’s refusal to permit Senator Lesniak and the environmental groups to intervene in the case (either as of right or permissively) to argue against the settlement, holding for the first time in a reported decision that a putative intervenor must have standing, and that even under New Jersey’s “liberal view,” both Senator Lesniak and the environmental groups lacked standing for purposes...

Governor Signs Off on Amendments to New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act

On January 9, 2017, Governor Christie signed into law a bill aimed at fortifying New Jersey’s existing Electronic Waste Management Act, by ensuring that manufactures of certain consumer electronics shoulder the burden for recycling all such devices actually collected in the state during a calendar year. While this new law is technically a recast of the existing statutory scheme, the changes it affects are, in many ways, transformative. This blog provides a broad description of the previous law, the apparent conditions which prompted its revision, and the key innovations of the new law.

EPA Provides Look Into Pending Financial Assurance Regulations

Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA” or “the Agency”) shared some preliminary details regarding its impending proposal of financial assurances regulations for the hardrock mining industry. These regulations, which are still under consideration by the Agency, will likely serve as a harbinger of the financial assurances requirements EPA intends to impose on other industries, and collectively, they have the potential to have a significant financial impact on parties responsible for cleaning up contaminated properties.

U.S. Supreme Court to Montana: “Stay Thirsty, My Friend.”

The Supreme Court in Montana v. Wyoming –U.S.–, 131 S.Ct. 1765 (2011), rejected Montana’s claim that Wyoming’s usage of water depleted the amount of water available to it under the Yellowstone River Compact between Montana and Wyoming. Montana contended that Wyoming breached Article V(A) of the Compact which provided that “appropriative rights to the beneficial uses of the water of the Yellowstone River System existing in each signatory State as of January 1, 1950, shall continue to be enjoyed in accordance with the laws governing the acquisition and use of water under the doctrine of appropriation.”

N.J. Appellate Court Extends Time Limit for Bringing Strict-Liability Claim for Natural Resource Damages

Thanks to a special “extension statute” enacted in 2001, the statute of limitations that requires the State of New Jersey to commence a civil action within ten years of its accrual does not apply to an action for natural resource damages (NRDs) that is brought “pursuant to the State’s environmental laws.” The Appellate Division recently held that the Legislature intended “the State’s environmental laws” to include the common law — or at least the common law of strict liability — and revived a claim that otherwise would have been time-barred.

In Rare Application of Waiver Doctrine, Federal Court Holds That New Jersey Gave Up Right to Seek Natural Resource Damages at Contaminated Site

It is difficult for a defendant to avoid a claim by invoking the doctrine of waiver, which requires proof of a clear, unequivocal act showing that the plaintiff deliberately intended to relinquish a known legal right. It is doubly difficult when the plaintiff is the State of New Jersey, against which the application of the doctrine is, in the words of a leading Supreme Court case, to be “most strictly limited.”