EPA Incites Further Controversy Proposing to Designate Forever Chemicals Under CERCLA

While critics may say the federal government has been slow to react to PFAS, last week the EPA took its most aggressive stance — publishing its notice for a proposed federal rule to designate two specific PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and now the clock is ticking. 

Found in surface water, air, soil, and even more recently food packaging, PFOA and PFOS were used pervasively in American manufacturing beginning in the 1940s for their durability, heat/grease resistance, and waterproof nature, and quickly assumed the nomenclature “forever chemicals” because of their remarkable inability to decompose. 

When talking shop, lawyers, insurance carriers, and manufacturers alike have labeled PFAS the ‘emerging contaminant’ to watch out for …

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EPA Proposes to Designate PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances under CERCLA

Friday of last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a proposed rule that would designate perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”), including their salts and structural isomers, as hazardous substances under section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (commonly known as CERCLA). The designations, if finalized, could have direct and indirect impacts on a range of individuals and companies, as well as the federal government itself.

The five broad categories of entities potentially affected by this designation as …

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Superfund: An Unsung Victim of COVID

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) — commonly known as “the Superfund” — was enacted in December 1980 in response to growing awareness of, and concern over, the catastrophic environmental impact of unregulated and largely unrestricted dumping of toxic waste into the ecosystems and communities around dump sites.

Executed by the Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund represented the first federally regulated attempt to address these environmental issues — principally through short-term removal actions, such as properly disposing of partially empty drums of toxic …

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CERCLA Alert: NJ Petitions to Designate Superfund Status to the Hackensack River

If the hallmarks of Jersey summers are languid days down the Shore, time-off, and welcomed passivity, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection missed the memo. Late last month, the NJDEP roused potential responsible parties from their summer slumber with its unexpected announcement that the state intends to aggressively pursue the lower Hackensack River as a federal Superfund site in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The NJDEP’s mid-summer announcement puts past and present industrial players throughout the Garden State on …

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Third Circuit Affirms No Duplicative Reporting for “Federally Permitted Releases”

Two fires at the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works facility near Pittsburgh, PA in December 2018 and 2019 resulted in the release of pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and coke oven gas into the air. Following air monitoring that revealed increased levels of the pollutants, in compliance with its Clean Air Act permits and regulations, U.S. Steel reported the fires and emissions to the Allegheny County Health Department—the local governmental arm that enforces the Clean Air Act.

Notwithstanding, the Clean Air Council, a nonprofit environmental …

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Supreme Court Holds CERCLA Contribution Requires Resolution of a CERCLA-Specific Liability

As previously reported by the Environmental Law Monitor, in January 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in the matter of Guam v. United States, to resolve a long-standing circuit split on an issue related to CERCLA’s settlement and contribution provisions.

By way of background, the United States and Guam have been embroiled in a decades-long dispute over the Ordot Dump, which was constructed by the United States Navy in the 1940s, and served as a toxic military waste deposit …

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SCOTUS to Resolve Circuit Split Regarding CERCLA Liability

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 …

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EPA Final Rulemaking Will Not Require Additional Financial Assurance Requirements for Cleanups at Industrial Sites

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 …

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Increase of Climate-Related Weather Events Continue to Threaten Superfund Sites

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 …

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Bona-Fide Improvement: Ohio Adds BFPP Defense to Hazardous Waste Liability

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 …

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