ERIE, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on March 20 granted the government’s motion to strike exhibits filed as part of a farm owner’s redrafted motion to vacate a consent decree in a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit, holding that a previously undisclosed expert report challenges a previously made determination that the parcel of land at issue is a wetland under the statute (United States v. Robert Brace, et al., No. 90-229E, W.D. Pa., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48326).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 13 affirmed a district court’s ruling in favor of an insurer because the insurer met its defense and indemnity obligations to its insured in an underlying suit arising out of the insured’s scrap metal shredding facility (QBE Specialty Insurance Co. v. Scrap Inc., Nos. 18-13926, 19-13894, 11th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8015).
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ten settlements with insurers of Chapter 11 debtor Kaiser Gypsum Co. Inc. that will bring more than $50 million to an escrow fund to pay for the cleanup of two polluted sites in Washington state received approval March 12, according to a North Carolina federal bankruptcy court docket entry (In re Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc., et al., No. 16-31602, W.D. N.C. Bkcy.).
LOS ANGELES — Numerous plaintiffs sued chrome plating companies in California federal court on March 18, contending that they have violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and are responsible for groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium and various solvents (Arconic Inc., et al. v. Cal-Tron Plating Inc., et al., No. 20-2586, C.D. Calif.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. government on March 16 filed a brief in Ohio federal court in support of a consent decree that would settle a lawsuit for injunctive relief and civil penalties against a hydraulic fracturing company for violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at multiple oil and gas production facilities the government contends are liable for contaminating the air with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (United States v. Gulfport Energy Corporation, No. 20-340, S.D. Ohio).
LOS ANGELES — The federal government, state of California and Plains All American Pipeline L.P. on March 13 entered into an agreement in federal court in California in which the company agreed to pay more than $60 million in civil penalties and damages to resolve allegations stemming from a May 2015 pipeline spill on a beach near Santa Barbara, Calif., that resulted in the discharge of 2,934 barrels of crude oil (United States, et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline L.P., et al., No. 20-2415, C.D. Calif.).
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Electric and Power Co., doing business as Dominion Energy Virginia, on March 13 entered into an agreement with the federal government and state of Virginia in federal court in Virginia that requires the company to pay $1.4 million to resolve allegations that discharges from coal ash pond at two of its facilities violated the Clean Water Act (CWA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and state laws (United States, et al. v. Virginia Electric and Power Co., No. 20-cv-00177, E.D. Va.).
BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Supreme Court on March 11 affirmed a trial court judge’s ruling imposing civil penalties and entering an injunction against a man accused by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of operating an unpermitted solid waste facility, holding that grass clippings and leaves constitute solid waste under the state’s Solid Waste Management Rules and finding that the agency’s enforcement action was timely (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality v. David R. Gibson, et al., No. 46217, Idaho Sup., 2020 Ida. LEXIS 48).
YUMA, Ariz. — A regional branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on March 6 announced that it had reached a settlement with a company that stores and distributes produce from a facility in Yuma, Ariz., over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) stemming from the company’s failure to properly manage the storage of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical used in the refrigeration system at the site and that can be corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs.
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana appeals panel on March 4 overturned a trial court’s ruling vacating an administrative appeals board’s decision that held that the city of Indianapolis and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) erred when issuing a no further action (NFA) letter regarding remediation work, holding that the city and the agency used the proper guidelines when deciding that the cleanup work sufficiently reduced levels of hazardous substances (Indianapolis, et al. v. Moran Electric Service Inc., No. 18A-PL-3055, Ind. App., 2020 Ind. App. Unpub. LEXIS 277).
DENVER — Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. on March 6 agreed to pay $9 million to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for emissions and operating and monitoring violations that occurred at its Commerce City, Colo., refinery between 2017 and 2019, the department announced, stating that it is the largest payment the state has received for violations at one facility (In the Matter of Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc., Nos. 2019-097, 2019-194, Colo. Dept. Public Health & Envir.).
HONOLULU — The city and county of Honolulu on March 9 filed a lawsuit in state court accusing 20 fossil fuel producers of public nuisance, trespass and strict liability for their conduct in marketing and promoting their products despite knowing that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change (City and County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP, et al., No. 1CCV-2020-0000380, Hawaii Cir., 1st Cir.).
SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in California on Feb. 28 held that an insurer has a duty to defend its insureds against underlying third-party complaints seeking indemnity and contribution for a putative class action lawsuit over contaminated groundwater, finding that if he were to adopt the insurer’s reading of the pollution exclusion, he would be at risk of extending the exclusion beyond a layperson's understanding (Kingsley Management, Corp., et al. v. Occidental Fire & Casualty Company Of North Carolina, et al., No. 19-1361, S.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34836).
RICHMOND, Va. — A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 6 affirmed a ruling remanding the mayor and city council of Baltimore’s lawsuit alleging that producers and sellers of fossil fuels are liable for climate change-related damages to the city’s infrastructure, finding that the federal officer doctrine was not grounds for removing the case to federal court (Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP Plc, et al., No. 19-1644, 4th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 7083).
PORTLAND, Ore. — A number of youths and an environmental group claiming that the federal government knew about the association between climate change and the burning of fossil fuels on March 2 petitioned the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for an en banc rehearing, arguing that a divided Jan. 17 ruling that found that the plaintiffs’ claims could not be redressed in federal court should be vacated (Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 18-36082, 9th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS — A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 3 vacated a federal judge in Louisiana’s ruling denying BP Exploration & Production Inc.’s challenge to an oil spill claimant’s $77 million award, finding that the judge erred when not considering evidence possibly showing that the claimant’s decreased profits during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 resulted from a spike in the price of fertilizer rather than the spill (BP Exploration & Production Inc., et al. v. Claimant ID No. 100191715, No. 19-30264, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 6667).
INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge in Indiana on Feb. 28 held that a default judgment entered against an insured in a Michigan lawsuit precludes a third party’s claims against insurers because the present lawsuit seeks coverage for the insured’s liability for contaminated groundwater “under the very same policies at issue” in the Michigan lawsuit (Lusher Site Remediation Group v. National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, et al., No. 18-03785, S.D. Ind., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34919).
JOPLIN, Mo. — An explosives manufacturer entered into an agreement with the federal government in Missouri federal court on Feb. 27 in which it agreed to pay $2.9 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at two of its facilities (United States v. Dyno Nobel Inc., No. 19-5031, W.D. Mo.).
ALBANY, N.Y. — A federal judge in New York on Feb. 12 dismissed without prejudice a property owner’s claims for cost recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), finding that the plaintiff’s claim was precluded because it entered into an agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) that released it from liability (BASF Corp. v. Albany Molecular Research Inc., et al., No. 19-CV-0134, N.D. N.Y., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24240).
WILMINGTON, Del. — A federal judge in Delaware on Feb. 14 denied motions for summary judgment on a defendant company’s counterclaim for cost recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), finding that a former property owner that used a California site for 50 years cannot claim that it is not a potentially responsible party for contamination under the act and that there is a dispute as to whether the defendant company’s decision to conduct demolition and excavation at the site triggers its liability under the act (Alcoa Inc. v. Alcan Rolled Products-Ravenswood LLC, et al., No. 06-451-JFB-SRF, D. Del., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27737).