DETROIT — Consumers who purchased Volkswagen vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests cannot seek restitution from the auto manufacturer as part of criminal proceedings brought by the federal government against the company because it would unduly prolong the sentencing process, a federal judge in Michigan ruled April 21 (United States of America v. James Robert Liang, et al., No. 16-cr-20394, E.D. Mich.).
DETROIT — A federal judge in Michigan on April 21 ordered Volkswagen AG to pay a $2.8 billion fine for equipping its diesel vehicles with software designed to cheat emissions tests after the company pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) (United States of America v. James Robert Liang, et al., No. 16-cr-20394, E.D. Mich.).
PORTLAND, Ore. — A federal magistrate judge in Oregon on April 18 recommending denying Monsanto Co.’s motion to dismiss product liability claims brought by the Port of Portland, over polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination, finding that the plaintiff does not clearly state when it discovered the injury (Port of Portland v. Monsanto Co., et al., No. 17-15, D. Ore.).
NEW ORLEANS — The federal judge in Louisiana who is overseeing litigation stemming from damages caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that followed the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 ruled March 17 that individuals whose claims arise from federal moratoria on drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico can opt out of the Deepwater Horizon Economic Loss and Property Damage Settlement Program if they are not resolved by March 25 (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, MDL 2179, Case No. 12-970, E.D. La.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia on April 11 vacated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that exempted farms from reporting air releases of animal waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know-Act of 1986 (EPCRA), finding that the agency could not justify the exemption (Waterkeeper Alliance v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nos. 09-1017, 09-1104, D.C. Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6174).
CINCINNATI — The modification of a consent decree that extended the deadline for upgrades to one of two coal-burning power plants in Rockport, Ind., violated a contract between owners and operators of the facility because it would require the owners to make the improvements and pay for them after expiration of the lease, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled April 14 (Wilmington Trust Company, et al. v. AEP Generating Company, et al., No. 16-3496, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6426).
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana federal judge on April 11 denied an insured’s motion for a preliminary injunction after determining that the insured has already shown that it can avoid suffering any irreparable harm by paying for its own site remediation contractor rather than switching to the insurers’ choice of contractor while its lawsuit against its insurers is pending (Ranburn Corp. v. Argonaut Insurance Co., et al., No. 16-088, N.D. Ind., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54833).
SAN DIEGO — The city of San Diego and its port district on April 7 filed a brief in California federal court contending that their second amended complaint against Monsanto Co. regarding alleged contamination of the city’s water system with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) should not be dismissed because the city has multiple property interests that are affected by the company’s PCBs (San Diego Unified Port District, et al v. Monsanto Company, et al., No. 15-578, S.D. Calif.).
BOSTON — A federal judge in Massachusetts on April 7 granted a motion for summary judgment dismissal of claims for breach of warranty brought by a town against Monsanto and its affiliates related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in a school building on grounds that the town failed to show that an alternate design was feasible. As a result of that dismissal, the judge ruled that motions to exclude expert witness testimony were “moot” (Town of Westport v. Monsanto Company, No. 14-12041, D. Mass.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53815).
TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey federal judge on April 5 denied motions for reconsideration filed by two insurers and their insured after determining that the court did not commit a clear error of law in interpreting the applicability of the policies’ per-occurrence limits and absolute pollution exclusion in an environmental contamination dispute (Castoro & Co. Inc. v. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. Inc., et al., No. 14-1305, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52140).
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A federal magistrate judge in New York on March 31 denied portions of motions for summary judgment filed by General Electric Co. (GE) and the state of New York, finding that issues of material fact exist as to whether GE intended to dispose of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-containing capacitors at a scrapyard to be considered an arranger of hazardous waste disposal under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (State of New York, et al. v. General Electric Company, No. 14-CV-747, N.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50026).
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal magistrate judge in California on April 3 ordered a property owner to withdraw a request to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to have a former owner conduct additional site investigation for contamination, finding that the request violated the terms of a settlement agreement with the parties (Northern California River Watch v. Fluor Corporation, No. 10-cv-05105-WHO, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50763).
NEWARK, N.J. — A federal judge in New Jersey on April 3 denied General Electric Co.’s (GE) motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking cost recovery and contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for contamination at a site sold to a developer in 2015, ruling that discovery is needed to find the definition of “environmental response activities” in the indemnity and settlement agreement (ISA) (BRG Harrison Lofts Urban Renewal LLC v. General Electric Company, No. 16-6577, D. N.J., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50265).
HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal judge in Indiana on March 31 approved a proposed settlement between the federal government, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana and United States Steel Corp. over violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), but acknowledged comments from objectors to the agreement who sought a harsher civil penalty or an agreement that the company take on more environmental projects (United States of America, et al. v. United States Steel Corporation, No. 12-CV-304-PPS-APR, N.D. Ind., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47607).
SAN FRANCISCO — An insurer involved in an environmental contamination coverage dispute is entitled to reimbursement of the deductible it paid on behalf of its insured because the policy at issue specifically states that the deductible includes claim expenses such as defense costs, a California federal judge said March 29 in granting the insurer’s motion for partial summary judgment (American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Co., et al. v. Technichem Inc., et al., No. 15-03611, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47103).
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — A father and son who built a levee on their property to protect it from flooding were ordered by a federal judge in Illinois on March 28 to pay a $4,750 fine for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) and ordered to obtain under a permit under Section 404 of the act for a portion of the levee (Quad Cities Waterkeeper Inc., et al. v. David G. Ballegeer, et al., No. 12-cv-4075-SLD-JEH, C.D. Ill., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45829).
BOSTON — A federal judge in Massachusetts on March 24 dismissed without prejudice a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups against the U.S. Environmental Agency and others, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction over the groups’ allegations that the agency was not undertaking a nondiscretionary duty to require dischargers of storm water into the Charles River to obtain permits (Conservation Law Foundation, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 16-10397-RGS, D. Mass., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43354).
SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in California on March 24 denied a dairy’s motion for judgment on the pleadings after finding that a plaintiff corporation sufficiently alleged that the dairy discharged hazardous substances that are covered by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Citizens Development Corporation v. County of San Diego, et al., No. 12cv0334, S.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43785).
TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Supreme Court on March 27 voted 6-1 in favor of vacating a ruling denying the state of New Jersey’s motion to dismiss a contribution lawsuit brought by NL Industries Inc. under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act), finding that the state could raise the sovereign immunity defense for an incident that occurred before the act was enacted (NL Industries, Inc. v. State of New Jersey, No. A-44-15, N.J. Sup., 2017 N.J. LEXIS 325).
WILMINGTON, Del. — The Delaware Supreme Court on March 23 determined that the law of New York should be applied in a dispute over the allocation of environmental contamination claims because New York has the most significant relationship with the parties and applying the law of the state in which an environmental cleanup site is located, as proposed by the lower court, would result in an inconsistent application of a policy’s contract language (Chemtura Corp. v. Certain Underwriters at CCLC Lloyd’s, et al., No. 371, 2016, Del. Sup., 2017 Del. LEXIS 127).