Environmental Civil Remedies Civil Procedure

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Policy Observer - December 2014

Giving and Receiving: Insuring Company-Sponsored Volunteerism: This is the time of year when we are reminded of the importance of giving. Many companies not only donate generously to nonprofits and community programs,...more

DTSC’s Lien Procedure Found to Violate Due Process

In Van Horn v. Department of Toxic Substances Control (“DTSC”), a California Court of Appeal found that DTSC’s procedure for imposing liens on property under the California “Superfund” law violates due process of law....more

New York District Court Holds Lessee Not Liable Under CERCLA as an Owner

A New York federal district court recently held that a lessee will not be found liable under CERCLA as an owner where the lessee does not possess sufficient indicia of ownership. (Next Millennium Realty, LLC v. Adchem Corp.,...more

Condemnation and Contamination: The Spectre of Double Liability

Agencies acquiring private property for a public project conduct thorough investigations to determine whether the property has environmental contamination. If contamination is found, the question arises whether evidence of...more

CERCLA Cost Recovery v. Contribution Again: It’s Still Unfair

Parties in CERCLA cases continue to deal with the consequences of the Supreme Court decisions in Aviall and Atlantic Research which essentially created two classes of PRPs: (1) PRPs who entered into CERCLA settlements with...more

Ninth Circuit Rejects Use of Preemptive Litigation to Validate Federal Approvals

Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc., v. Center for Biological Diversity, (11/12/14, No. 13-35835) The Ninth Circuit has rejected a “novel litigation strategy” that Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc., employed in an effort to preempt a...more

Opponents of Arena Project Foul Out

On November 20, 2014, the Third District Court of Appeal (Court) handed a partial victory to the City of Sacramento (City), rejecting petitioners' appeal and thereby authorizing the continued construction of the Sacramento...more

California Federal Court Dismisses CERCLA Claims and Strikes Request for Attorneys’ Fees

In N. Cal. River Watch v. Fluor Corp., __F.Supp.3d__, 2014 WL 4954638 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 2, 2014), a Northern California district court dismissed Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”)...more

California Trial Court Orders New Trial On Claim that Recology Violated CFCA

A California trial court recently overturned a jury verdict finding Recology San Francisco liable for violating the California False Claims Act (CFCA) and granted Recology’s motion for a new trial. The court’s ruling comes...more

Minnesota Federal Court Clarifies Pleading Standard in Vapor Contamination Case

In an opinion that may help clarify the jurisdictional and pleading requirements for plaintiffs seeking damages and injunctive relief for alleged injuries from vapor intrusion, the federal district court in Minnesota denied a...more

New Jersey Landowner Forfeits Damages by Allowing Defendant to Remediate

In what may be a cautionary tale for owners of contaminated property, a New Jersey appellate court has ruled that a landowner forfeited any claim to property damages when he allowed the responsible party to perform...more

Texas High Court Finds Expert Opinion on Stigma Damages Too Speculative

Clarifying when expert testimony on alleged diminution in property value becomes legally sufficient to support a so-called “stigma” claim, the Texas Supreme Court struck down a $350,000 jury verdict based on environmental...more

Federal Court Orders DOT to Respond to Sierra Club’s Unsafe Tank Car Lawsuit

A Federal Court has ordered the Department of Transportation (DOT) to respond to a lawsuit filed by three environmental organizations—Earthjustice, Sierra Club and ForestEthics—in which the parties asked the court to order...more

Kansas Appellate Court Disallows Strict Liability Claims for Refinery’s Alleged Discharge of Pollutants

In City of Neodesha v. BP Corporation North America, Inc., 2014 WL 4116576, which involved BP’s successful defense of claims relating discharges from its refinery, the Court of Appeals of Kansas affirmed the denial of the...more

Seventh Circuit Uses Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) to Reopen 23-Year Old Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) allows a party to move for relief from a final judgment on the ground that “it prospectively is no longer equitable.” Motions under Rule 60(b)(5) must be made “within a reasonable...more

District of Arizona Rethinks NEPA’s Zone of Interests in Light of Recent Supreme Court Opinion on “Prudential” Standing

On September 30, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona (Campbell, D.J.) issued an order in Yount v. Salazar, Nos. 11-8171 et al., 2014 WL 4904423 (D. Ariz. Sept. 30, 2014). As part of this order,...more

Public Agency May Recover the Cost of Supplementing Administrative Record

In CEQA litigation, the party challenging the project can either request that the agency prepare the record of proceedings (“Record”), or prepare the Record itself, subject to certification by the lead agency. In either case,...more

Attorney Labor For Preparing CEQA Administrative Record Is Recoverable Cost Where Specialized Knowledge Required, Holds Fourth...

In a partially-published opinion filed September 29, 2014, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed an order and judgment permitting the County of San Diego to recover actual labor costs incurred for an attorney and...more

The Expanding Availability of Apportionment To Limit Liability in Superfund Cases

In Burlington Northern in 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled that Superfund liability could be apportioned whenever there was a reasonable basis for showing that the harm was divisible, such as by considering the length of time...more

CEQA Reform in the Courts – Public Agency Can Recover Costs Despite Petitioner's Election

After Governor Brown took office for the second time, CEQA reform through the Legislature seemed like a distinct possibility. While that possibility has all but evaporated, recent rulings suggest that courts are taking a...more

CEQA Administrative Record Preparation Costs – Who Pays and When? First District Provides Guidance In Coalition For Adequate...

In a published decision filed September 15, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a trial court’s post-judgment order granting an unsuccessful CEQA petitioner’s motion to tax the entire $64,144 cost...more

Yes, Virginia, It Is Possible To Win A Fee Award Against An Environmental NGO

Last week, Judge Walter Smith, Jr., ordered the Sierra Club to pay more than six million dollars – yes, you read that correctly – to Energy Future Holdings and Luminant Generation, after finding that the Sierra Club’s Clean...more

CEQA: Are time extensions for nonconforming uses exempt from review?

Is an extension of time for an existing nonconforming use exempt from CEQA review? A new writ action just filed proposes to resolve that issue....more

Federal Court Determines Low Levels of Carcinogens PCE and TCE Insufficient to Establish Private RCRA Cause of Action Absent...

Further underscoring the importance of expert testimony to support environmental claims, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in Leese v. Lockheed Martin Corp., et al., No. 11-5091 (JBS/AMD), 2014...more

Fifth Circuit Reins In Trend of Expanding ESA Liability for Remote Harm

The Fifth Circuit's recent decision in The Aransas Project v. Shaw, No. 13-40317 (5th Cir. June 30, 2014), clarified two points relating to the element of causation in claims under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ...more

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