An Update On Standing — Some Specifics Really Are Required

Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed EPA’s approval of Nevada’s State Implementation Plan for regional haze against a challenge by WildEarth Guardians. The decision isn’t earthshaking.  However, because it found that WildEarth Guardians did not have standing to challenge EPA’s reasonable further progress determination for measuring visibility improvements, but did have standing to challenge EPA’s determination regarding the Best Available Retrofit Technology for the Reid Gardner Generating Station in northeast Nevada, it provides a handy way to compare and contrast what must be alleged by citizen groups to establish standing.

First, the reasonable further progress determination…. More

Settling Parties In Government Consent Orders Have CERCLA Claims For Contribution Not Cost Recovery

To the extent there was any remaining uncertainty, the Sixth Circuit has now made crystalline that a party settling some or all of its liability under CERCLA with the United States or a state has a contribution claim under Section 113 and not a cost recovery action under Section 107. Additionally, that contribution claim must be brought within three years of the date of any judgment entering the settlement or of any administrative order memorializing the settlement. No “if, ands, or buts.”

The Sixth Circuit decision was Hobart Corporation v. Waste Management of Ohio, Inc. It involved three PRPs… More

EPA Wins Two Clean Water Cases in One Day: The Fourth Circuit Affirms a Narrow Construction of the Permit Shield Defense

Yesterday, I noted that the D.C. Circuit rejected challenges to EPA’s Enhanced Coordination Process and Final Guidance on Clean Water Act permitting for mining activities. It was not EPA’s only CWA victory. On the same day, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision narrowly construing the CWA’s permit shield defense.

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards sued A&G Coal over discharges of selenium from A&G’s Kelly Branch Surface Mine in Virginia. The case was not really difficult and was only ever going to have one outcome.

According to the record, at the time of A&G’s NPDES permit… More

The D.C. Circuit Rejects Challenge to EPA’s Final Guidance on CWA Coal Mining Permits: EPA Action Has to Be Really, Really, Final to Be Appealable

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit reversed Judge Reggie Walton’s decision from 2012 and affirmed EPA’s authority to adopt the “Enhanced Coordination Process” governing coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers in the processing of Clean Water Act permits. The Court also rejected challenges to its 2012 Final Guidance document regarding appropriate conditions on such permits.

The decision on the Enhanced Coordination Process seems rather obvious. As the Court noted:

this kind of inter-agency consultation and coordination is commonplace and often desirable. Indeed, restricting such consultation and coordination would raise significant constitutional concerns.

***

Indeed, one of… More

Still Using Economic (and Safety) Arguments to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Massassachusetts Enacts Gas Leak Legislation

As I noted last year, there has been a concerted effort on the part of those fighting climate change to emphasize economic issues in connection with their policy proposals. That post concerned Senator Markey’s efforts to highlight the economic costs resulting from gas leaks. Of course, methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, with a global warming potential of 21.

Now Massachusetts – that leader in all matters progressive – has done something about it. As Governor Patrick announced earlier this week, Massachusetts has enacted H.4164, “An Act Relative to Natural Gas… More

The Reach of Sackett is Not Infinite: Regulated Facilities May Not Challenge EPA Notices of Violation

After the Supreme Court held in Sackett v. EPA that EPA must provide hearings to those to whom it issues unilateral administrative orders, the regulated community immediately began to wonder how broadly the ruling would sweep. It is clear that EPA’s order authority under similar statutory provisions – such as those in the Clean Air Act – is also subject to Sackett. However, what about seemingly less final actions, such as issuance of notices of violation?

Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held, in Luminant v. EPA, that Sackett does not apply to the issuance… More

Absolute Pollution Exclusions Are Absolute When There Has Been Pollution

Pollution exclusions first became routine in liability policies in the early 1970s.  After a decade of often unsuccessful litigation trying to enforce those exclusions, insurers introduced a so called “absolute” pollution exclusion into their commerical liability policies. Given that the language of absolute pollution exclusions has almost universally been found to be unambiguous, there has been a surprising amount of litigation on the subject.   What emerges from that litigation  is a general rule:  the exclusion will virtually always be enforced where the claim involves contamination of the environment, but enforcement is far less certain where the claim involves damage to a product, such as defective wallboard, or bodily injury from a defective product, such as harm to… More

Is Death A Defense To CERCLA Liability?

In contrast to the early days of Superfund when no argument for extending CERCLA liability was too far-fetched, the Second Circuit recently rejected one of the all-time “Hail Mary” passes for CERCLA contribution.  The case, ASARCO LLP v. Goodwin, involved a 2009 settlement by ASARCO of Superfund liability involving several contaminated mines it owned in Everett, Washington.  After settling, ASARCO asserted contribution claims against residuary trusts established in 1937 by the will of John D. Rockefeller to benefit his heirs. According to ASARCO, Rockefeller over a century ago had controlled a corporation which in turn had owned and operated… More

83% of a Loaf Is Better Than None: The Supreme Court Affirms EPA’s Authority to Regulate “Anyway Sources”, But Rejects Regulation of Otherwise Exempt Sources

The Supreme Court today affirmed EPA’s authority to subject 83% of greenhouse gas emissions to its PSD and Title V Operating Permit programs. However, EPA’s rationale for the rule did not fare so well, and EPA does not have authority to regulate GHG emissions from facilities not otherwise subject to PSD review or the Title V program.

To EPA and the court below, the main issue – EPA’s authority – was not difficult. PSD applies to “any regulated air pollutant.” Once EPA issued the tailpipe rule, GHGs became a regulated pollutant. Thus, EPA had not just discretion to regulate… More

Does Offshore Wind Finally Have The Wind At Its Back? DOI Announces Plan For Largest Auction To Date

Earlier this week, DOI Secretary Jewell joined with Governor Patrick to announce plans to auction more than 1,000 square miles on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Massachusetts for wind energy development. The auction, which will be implemented as four separate leases, pretty much will follow the form of earlier lease auctions:

• Bidders will be prequalified to participate in the auction

• The auction will include multiple factors, including non-monetary factors

• The winning bidder or bidders will have one year in which to submit a site assessment for the… More

More on EPA’s GHG Rule: I Am NOT Going To Set Odds on Whether the Rule Would Survive Judicial Review

Last week, in posting about EPA’s Clean Power Plan, I noted that some potential plaintiffs might face standing obstacles in seeking to challenge the rule, assuming it is promulgated as proposed. Today, I take a (very) slightly broader look at potential legal challenges.

First, I still think that the most obvious potential plaintiffs, owners of coal-fired power plants, might indeed have standing issues in challenging a rule which maximizes the options for attaining reductions in GHG emissions. After Massachusetts v. EPA, EPA pretty clearly has authority to regulate GHG emissions from power plants. If EPA did that… More

Do Statutes of Repose Under CERCLA Really Require Supreme Court Review

Even Superfund lawyers are likely to find the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in CTS Corporation v. Waldburger to be of limited interest.  Unable to reach an agreement about a federal “toxic tort” cause of action, Congress in the 1986 amendments to CERCLA settled on a limited provision that federalized the equitable tolling of statutes of limitation applicable to state toxic tort claims so that toxic tort claims would not accrue until a plaintiff either knew or should have known of his claim.  The issue before the Supreme Court in CTS was whether that equitable tolling doctrine applied to state statutes of repose as well as to statutes… More

EPA May Be Regulating GHGs, But Private Litigation Still Looks to be On Shaky Ground

In a case of interesting timing, three days after EPA announced its proposed GHG rules for existing facilities, the D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal of a case seeking an injunction against EPA and other federal defendants requiring them to reduce global CO2 levels to 350 ppm during this century (and take actions to ensure that result by imposing regulations resulting in at least a 6% annual decline in emissions). The basis for the law suit was the public trust doctrine.

As we previously discussed, the District Court dismissed the case on the grounds that: (1) there is no… More

EPA’s GHG Rule: The Really Big Picture View

As some folks may have heard, EPA proposed emission guidelines for GHG emissions from existing generating units on Monday. Obviously, the rule is a little too complicated to summarize in one blog post, though I’ll try to post on some aspects of it in coming days, if I can figure out a blog-efficient way to do so. Today, I’d like to focus on the big picture.

What do we know about EPA regulation of GHG?

• The Supreme Court has told EPA that greenhouse gases are, collectively, a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. That’s a… More

When Does the Sixth Circuit Set EPA Rules for the Entire Country? When EPA Regulations Require National Uniformity

In a fascinating decision issued today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s Summit Directive. The Summit Directive – sounds ominous – was issued in response to the 2012 decision in Summit Petroleum Corp. v. EPA, in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA could not consider two facilities as “adjacent” for Title V and NSR permitting purposes unless they are, in fact, adjacent. EPA had previously interpreted facilities as adjacent based in part on whether the facilities, even if not physically adjacent, were “functionally interrelated.”

Following the decision in Summit, EPA determined… More