SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge in California on Nov. 20 partially granted and partially denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit for groundwater contamination and hazardous waste contamination, ruling that the plaintiff had standing to bring federal claims against Pacific Gas & Electric Co., but state law claims failed because the plaintiff could not show that the company engaged in ultrahazardous activity (Dan Clarke v. Pacific Gas & Electric Company, No. 20-4629, N.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218241).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The city of West Sacramento’s request for a permanent injunction that would require the owners of a former metal plating site to investigate and remediate a contaminated site at their own expense under the Gatto Act would be premature because the city is seeking injunctive relief in other causes of action that are yet to be decided, a federal judge in California ruled Dec. 2 in granting in part the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A company that sued the Department of the Army and other parties for environmental cost recovery and contribution was ordered on Nov. 24 to comply with the Army’s discovery requests for documents related to the cleanup operations, with a California federal magistrate judge concluding that the requested discovery was relevant and not unduly burdensome (Friends of Riverside Airport LLC v. Department of the Army, et al., No. 19-1103, C.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220585).
SAN FRANCISCO — An environmental group asked the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an opening brief filed Nov. 27 to reverse a federal judge in California’s ruling that hexavalent chromium that is generated as part of a city’s pumping and distribution of drinking water that remains in the city’s drinking water wells is not a solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), arguing that the transporter of the chemical does not have to transport the chemical twice for the chemical to retain its identity as a solid waste under the statute.
CENTRAL ISLIP N.Y. — A federal judge in New York on Nov. 24 partially granted and partially denied a motion by certain companies seeking to avoid contributing to cleanup costs associated with remedying groundwater contamination in a plume in Nassau County, N.Y., saying that some of the claims for recovery were barred by a prior consent decree (101 Frost Street Associates LP, et al. v. United States Department of Energy, et al., No. 17-3585, E.D. N.Y., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220691).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The city of Vacaville, Calif.’s request for an award of costs following the resolution of an environmental group’s lawsuit accusing the city of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and other laws by providing public drinking water containing hexavalent chromium was denied by a federal judge in California on Nov. 30, after she found that the city was not a prevailing party because the disposition of the suit constituted a “mixed judgment.”
BOSTON — Although a Massachusetts federal judge on Nov. 24 approved new case deadlines, a trial date remains set for May 2021 between an insurer and reinsurers in their reinsurance billings dispute over the insurer’s allocation of a $120 million environmental claims settlement (Certain London Market Company Reinsurers v. Lamorak Insurance Co., No. 18-10534, D. Mass.).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The presence of excessive levels of lead detected in soil on properties that were owned by a county that built then demolished buildings with lead paint sufficiently supports a third-party contribution claim brought by defendants in a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act against the county, a federal judge in California ruled Nov. 17 in denying the county’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the presence of the substance can cause the defendants to incur response costs.
MINNEAPOLIS — Exxon Mobil Corp. and ExxonMobil Oil Corp. (collectively, ExxonMobil) and four groups say in a Nov. 9 brief filed in federal court in Minnesota that the state’s climate change lawsuit should continue to proceed in federal court because its allegations involve federal and global issues that should not be resolved in state court.
WILMINGTON, Del. — The state of Delaware on Nov. 20 moved to remand its suit claiming that BP America Inc. and a number of other energy companies knowingly withheld information about the association between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, arguing that the suit is not removable under federal officer jurisdiction and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and raises no federal questions because its claims are based on the state’s consumer protection law.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government and a number of other groups, including 13 states, filed amicus curiae briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 23 in support of energy companies seeking reversal of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ affirmation of a ruling remanding a lawsuit brought by the mayor and city council of Baltimore claiming that the companies violated state law when failing to fully disclose the association between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change on the ground that the action is not subject to federal jurisdiction.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — An insurer’s duty to defend its insured against environmental contamination claims asserted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was triggered when the DEP notified the insured that it was identified as a potentially responsible party for the contamination at the site because the demand letter clearly commenced a legal process against the insured, a panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court said Nov. 19 in denying the insurer’s motion for summary relief (Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Co., v. Johnson Matthey Inc., et al, No. 330 M.D. 2015, Pa. Cwlth., 2020 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 734).
PENSACOLA, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida on Nov. 4 awarded summary judgment to BP Exploration & Production Inc. and BP America Production Co. (collectively, BP) in actions brought by two groups of workers who engaged in the cleanup of oil from the Gulf Mexico following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 and who allegedly suffered personal injuries as a result of exposure to arsenic in the dispersant Corexit and particulate matter (PM), finding that the plaintiffs’ expert’s general causation opinion was unreliable under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-one domestic and foreign energy companies told the U.S. Supreme Court in a brief filed Nov. 16 that appellate review of rulings remanding lawsuits that were removed on the basis of federal officer or civil rights removal statutes should not be limited to those grounds and that a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel erred when affirming remand of a climate change lawsuit brought by the mayor and city council of Baltimore after only finding that federal officer jurisdiction was not established.
NEW YORK — An insured should be ordered to reimburse an excess insurer for more than $1.3 million paid for past environmental contamination remediation costs at one of the insured’s sites because the insured allegedly concealed settlements it entered into with other insurers regarding the site, the excess insurer claims in a Nov. 12 motion for summary judgment filed in New York federal court (Olin Corp. v. Lamorak Insurance Co., et al., No. 84-1968, S.D. N.Y.).
DENVER — The city of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Oct. 29 entered into an agreement in federal court in Colorado in which it agreed to pay $13 million to resolve a lawsuit brought by the federal government and others that claimed that it violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by failing to implement a proper maintenance program for its stormwater sewer system and that discharges from the system contained levels of contaminants in excess of limits allowed by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit.
HACKENSACK, N.J. — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and others filed a lawsuit in state court Nov. 10 against Honeywell International Inc., claiming that contamination at the Quanta Resources Superfund site in Edgewater, N.J., which was used by the company’s predecessors, has spread outside the property’s boundaries, resulting in natural resource damages.
WOODBURY, N.J. — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and others sued Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC and Arkema Inc. in state court Nov. 10, alleging that the companies’ use of “forever chemicals” during operations at a West Deptford, N.J., site has resulted in contaminated drinking water and natural resources damages (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, et al. v. Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC, et al., No. GLO-L-1239-20, N.J. Super., Gloucester Co.).
HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal judge in Indiana on Nov. 6 denied a company’s motion to dismiss a groundwater contamination lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), saying that the complaint seeking compensation was not untimely (Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority v. Honeywell International Inc., et al., No. 17-95, N.D. Ind., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208183).
RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge in North Carolina on Nov. 6 approved a settlement among Duke Energy Carolinas LLC, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the state of North Carolina and the secretary of the Virginia Department of Natural Resources to resolve a lawsuit brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act over natural resource damages that resulted from a spill of coal ash wastewater in February 2014, finding that the terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable.