On January 8, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted the Government of Guam’s petition for a writ of certiorari in a Superfund cost recovery case in which Guam faces a $160 million cleanup bill for a landfill leaking toxic waste at a site that the U.S. Navy created in the 1940s. The case, Government of Guam v. United States, Docket No. 20-382, presents two longstanding circuit splits before SCOTUS, which address CERCLA’s settlement provisions and their impact on a settling …Continue Reading
On November 25, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it finalized rulemaking on financial assurance requirements for the Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution; Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing; and Chemical Manufacturing industries. The EPA determined the financial risks from facilities in these industries are addressed by existing state and federal regulations and modern industry practices, which mitigate risks inherent in these industries and cover the costs of cleaning up hazardous substance releases.
The final rulemaking relates to section 108(b) of the Comprehensive …Continue Reading
The U.S. EPA’s Superfund program began in 1980 in response to serious health concerns arising out of a school and neighborhood in upstate New York that was built atop a toxic-waste dumping ground now infamously known as Love Canal—the nation’s first Superfund site. Since then, a list of more than 1,750 sites have cropped up and made it to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List.
Turning to weather-related events—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a 2019 report that 945 Superfund sites remain vulnerable to …Continue Reading
This summer, Ohio implemented a change in its hazardous waste law that will be welcomed news to purchasers of brownfields. The new law adds a bona-fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) affirmative defense that will make those who qualify for its protections “immune to liability” to the state under the state’s environmental laws. Additionally, the new defense applies retroactively to pending causes of action that started before the law’s effective date.
The concept of a BFPP defense is familiar to purchasers of commercial property, as a similar …Continue Reading
The Supreme Court issued a landmark CERCLA decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian. Most notably, the court held that CERCLA did not deprive Montana state courts of jurisdiction over state law trespass, nuisance, and strict liability claims brought by owners of land within a Superfund site, even where the landowners sought a cleanup that went beyond the remediation plan approved by the EPA. However, the court also held that the landowners were potentially responsible parties under CERCLA, and therefore the landowners’ remediation plan …Continue Reading
The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian that state law claims are still valid against landowners who have entered into settlements with the EPA pursuant to CERCLA. In this case, Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco) had purchased the Anaconda Smelter site in Montana in 1977, where smelting had been taking place since 1884. In 1983, the site was designated as a Superfund site, and Arco worked with the EPA for approximately 35 years to remediate it. In 2008, landowners within …Continue Reading
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed a proposed rule under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to not impose financial responsibility requirements for facilities in the chemical manufacturing industry on Feb. 10, 2020. A number of environmental advocacy groups spurred this action in August 2014 when they filed a writ of mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking financial responsibility rules in this industry and others.
Section 108(b) of CERCLA addresses the promulgation …Continue Reading
On December 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, which addresses the limits of state and federal oversight of hazardous waste cleanup.
Landowners in Montana obtained a 2017 Montana State Court win, in which the court granted them permission to seek funding for additional cleanup of hazardous waste emanating from a former anaconda site contaminated with arsenic and smelter lead in order to go beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had already directed in …Continue Reading
The Senate and House both are considering Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulations this summer. Last month, the Senate began inching closer to consensus on certain regulations. Following two hearings in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the PFAS Release Disclosure Act was considered in committee and filed as an amendment to S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act heading to the Senate floor.
The Senate PFAS legislation would require reporting of PFAS releases as part of the Toxic Release Inventory Reporting program, address …Continue Reading
On June 28, 2019, the EPA released its draft risk evaluation for 1,4-Dioxane. The EPA’s initial determination was that 1,4-Dioxane poses no unreasonable risks to the environment and no unreasonable risks to occupational non-users. However, the EPA also concluded that the chemical presents unreasonable risks to workers in certain circumstances. The same day, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control held a public workshop on 1,4-Dioxane risks, and the department is actively considering further regulation. Just two days earlier, the New York legislature approved a …Continue Reading