SCOTUS Plays Red Light, Green Light in CERCLA Decision

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 …

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Close Only Counts with Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Dicamba Applications? Suit Seeks to Overturn EPA’s Decision to Allow Expanded Use of Dicamba

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has heard from the parties in a suit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow more widespread applications of dicamba. In 2016, the EPA approved dicamba for a conditional two-year registration. The agency allowed the more widespread use of dicamba, previously considered a volatile herbicide, as long as incidents of the pesticide harming other crops “are not occurring at unacceptable frequencies or levels.” In 2018, despite more than 4,200 official complaints that alleged damage to at least …

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CWA Alert: High Court Establishes New “Functional Equivalent” Test for Permitting Related to Groundwater Discharge

Last week, the United States Supreme Court provided additional guidance regarding the application of the Clean Water Act. In short, the Clean Water Act requires the federal government to regulate certain groundwater pollutants that find their way into navigable waters such as oceans, rivers and streams. 

The recent Supreme Court opinion has been considered by many to constitute a compromise of opposing positions, as it rejects the Trump Administration’s goals of lesser regulation, but also eliminates a Ninth Circuit court ruling that would have increased permitting requirements related to …

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Amid Covid-19 Concerns, Premises Owners and Managers Should Not Forget about Legionella

It would be hard to imagine there is anyone in the country who is unaffected, let alone unaware, of the dramatic steps imposed by federal, state, and local governments to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, government restrictions prohibiting the operation of many “non-essential” businesses, bans against large gatherings, “stay at home orders,” and mandatory remote employment have a major impact beyond the obvious immediate economic hardships. They also have caused thousands of buildings and facilities to remain unoccupied or at best occupied …

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Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Relaxation of Enforcement of Environmental Laws Due to COVID-19

On April 16, 2020 a coalition of environmental groups commenced the action National Resources Defense Council, et al. v. U.S. EPA et al., No. 20-3058, in the Southern District of New York, over concerns about the EPA’s policy on “enforcement discretion” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs are demanding that the EPA be compelled to respond to a Petition for Emergency Rulemaking filed on April 1, 2020, requesting that the EPA publish an interim final rule to ensure prompt public notice of …

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There is No Full and Final Settlement Under CERCLA

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 …

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U.S. EPA Issues Interim Guidance On Site Field Work In Times Of COVID-19

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to calibrate its response to COVID-19, the agency issued interim guidance on how to conduct environmental cleanups in light of the ongoing pandemic.  The guidance applies to cleanups under CERLCA, RCRA, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Underground Storage Tank program.

The interim guidance does not provide any blanket work stoppage, nor does it toll any deadlines.  Rather, it provides that the EPA continues to make decisions about continuing, reducing, or pausing …

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U.S. EPA Takes Key Step Toward Regulating PFOA and PFOS

As the virus pandemic has consumed our daily news, even some of the most important developments in the environmental world seem to have floated under the radar. Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an initial regulatory determination under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—the two most notorious substances in the family of thousands of similar “forever chemicals” also collectively referred to as PFAS. 

The EPA’s announcement—a little over a year following its release of …

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NGOs Petition U.S. EPA for “Emergency Rule” to Require Disclosure of Environmental Noncompliance Due to COVID-19

On April 1, a group of twenty-one organizations sent a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking accountability for companies that utilize a recently announced non-enforcement policy. The policy pertains to a relaxation of U.S. EPA enforcement of environmental testing, monitoring, and other compliance-related activities. The petition requests that EPA publish a new rule that requires public notification when a facility does not conduct environmental monitoring or reporting in reliance on EPA’s non-enforcement policy.

As previously reported, the EPA published a memorandum on …

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The Last Step – EPA Finalizes Rollback of Obama-era Automotive Pollution Targets

On April 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its final rule to rollback Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards. The new rule will allow vehicles on American roads to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the vehicles than they would have under the prior administration’s standards.

The new rule, which is expected to be implemented by late spring, will roll back a 2012 rule that required automakers’ fleets to average about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Under the …

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