OLYMPIA, Wash. — A 7-2 Washington Supreme Court on May 17 found that emails between a county and the Washington Department of Ecology were protected from disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA) because they were work product and because the sharing of the information between the parties did not constitute a waiver of that privilege (Kittitas County v. Sky Allphin, et al., No. 93562-9, Wash. Sup., 2018 Wash. Sup., 2018 Wash. LEXIS 336).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Natural Resource Defense Council and six other groups on May 15 filed a petition in the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that would eliminate greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicle and pickup trucks made from 2022 through 2025 (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. n/a, D.C. Cir.).
GULFPORT, Miss. — A coastal services professor designated as an expert for an environmental group claiming that a contractor’s road construction project is violating the Clean Water Act by disposing of excessive amounts of sediment in the Biloxi Back Bay can offer limited testimony regarding how the sediment flows from the project to the waterway, a federal judge in Mississippi ruled May 9, finding that the some of his opinions were based on inadequate data (Gulf Restoration Network v. Oscar Renda Contracting Inc., No. 17CV130-LG-RHW, S.D. Miss., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77907).
SEATTLE — A Washington county on May 8 sued five oil companies in state court, contending that they “borrowed the Big Tobacco playbook” when failing to disclose that the burning of fossil fuels is linked to global warming and climate change that has adversely affected public and private property (King County v BP Plc., et al., No. n/a, Wash. Super., King Co.).
TRENTON, N.J. — NL Industries Inc. on May 7 filed a supplemental brief in New Jersey federal court arguing that the court should deny environmental groups’ motion for reconsideration of its prior ruling that they failed to produce sufficient evidence to show that NL and other companies violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) when they discharged pollutants in levels that exceeded federal permits and contaminated local groundwater (Raritan Baykeeper, et al. v. NL Industries Ind., et al., No. 09-4117, D. N.J.).
CHICAGO — A federal judge in Illinois on April 26 denied a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Lenz Oil Peoria Inc. in which it argued that it is not the corporate successor to Lenz Oil Service Co., finding that the evidence shows that two brothers owned Lenz Oil Services at the time it began storing chemicals that contaminated the ground and soil at a site in Chicago (LCCS Group v. Lenz Oil Peoria Inc., et al., No. 16 C 5827, N.D. Ill., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69900).
SAN DIEGO — After finding that a property owner failed to allege specific facts as to which entities allegedly disposed of solid waste from a project site onto his property, a California federal judge on May 4 dismissed claims for violation of Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), California’s unfair competition law (UCL) and other claims with leave to amend (Todd Ingalls v. AMG Demolition & Environmental Services, et al., No. 17-cv-2013, S.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75997).
RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge in Maryland did not err when dismissing a man’s lawsuit accusing a funeral home of allegedly violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by not obtaining the required permit, a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled May 7, finding that the plaintiff’s only sufficient allegation was based on a past violation that cannot form the basis of a CWA citizen suit because the defendant obtained a permit before the suit was filed (Alan J. Schneider v. Donaldson Funeral Home P.A., et al., No. 17-1183, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 11884).
RICHMOND, Va. — A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on May 7 affirmed the convictions of two shipping companies accused of being vicariously liable for the two head crew members’ obstruction of justice, failure to accurately maintain a ship’s Oil Record Book and making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard because the employees were acting on behalf of the companies and because the companies were aware that the Oil Record Book was not being maintained accurately (United States of America v. Oceanic Illsabe Ltd., No. 17-4061, United States of America v. Oceanfleet Shipping Ltd., No. 17-4062, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 11877).
DETROIT — A Canadian pipeline company on May 2 agreed to pay $1.9 million for violating the terms of a $177 million agreement entered in 2016 that required the company to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to inspect one of its pipelines to ensure that it complies with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s standards (United States v. Enbridge Energy L.P., et al., No. 16-cv-914, W.D. Mich.).
SAN FRANCISCO — One hundred forty-nine residents who live near a Superfund site in San Francisco sued an environmental remediation company in California state court May 1, claiming that the company falsified soil samples during its alleged cleanup of the property and that its failure to fully complete the work it was paid $1.1 billion to do has led to higher rates of breast and cervical cancer and asthma (Bayview Hunters Point Residents, et al. v. Tetra Tech Inc., et al., No. CGC-18-566188, Calif. Super., San Francisco Co.).
PASADENA, Calif. — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled April 27 that a company that purchased a contaminated site through a tax sale cannot shield itself from third-party liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) because it had a contractual relationship with the company that formerly owned the site (California Department of Toxic Substances Control v. Westside Delivery LLC, No. 16-56558, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 10763).
SAN FRANCISCO — Two California counties and the city of Imperial Beach told the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 30 that a number of energy companies accused of withholding information about the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change cannot appeal a federal judge’s order remanding their suits, explaining that the decision does not involve a controlling question of law and will not lead to the termination of the litigation (San Mateo v. Chevron Corp., et al., No. 18-80049, 9th Cir.).
BROOKLYN, N.Y.— A community group’s lawsuit against a solid waste transfer station was remanded by a federal judge in New York on April 27 after the judge found that the group’s allegations are not subject to federal jurisdiction because they do not implicate the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (Cleanup North Brooklyn, et al. v. Brooklyn Transfer LLC, et al., No. 17-cv-05621, E.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71256).
ATLANTA — No coverage is owed to an insured seeking coverage for an underlying suit alleging property damages as a result of storm water runoff because the policy’s pollution exclusion clearly bars coverage for storm water, which qualifies as a pollutant under the exclusion, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said April 27 (Centro Development Corp. v. Central Mutual Insurance Co., No. 17-13489, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 10909).
DENVER — A federal judge in Colorado on April 18 granted the federal government’s early motion for summary judgment, finding that two defendant companies in a cost-recovery action brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) are corporate successors to mining companies that conducted operations at the Commodore Waste Rock Pile Superfund site (United States v. Pioneer Natural Resources Co., et al., No. 17-cv-0168-WJM-NYW, D. Colo., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65256).
PITTSBURGH — MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC and Ohio Gathering Co. LLC (collectively MarkWest) on April 23 agreed to pay a $691,000 civil penalty and complete three environmental projects to resolve allegations from the federal government, state of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for excessive emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from two of its facilities, according to a complaint and consent decree filed in Pennsylvania federal court (United States, et al. v. MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC, et al., No. 18-cv-520, W.D. Pa.).
NEW ORLEANS — A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on April 20 denied CITGO Petroleum Corp.’s request for an en banc review of a Feb. 14 ruling in which it found that the company’s objections to the imposition of an $81 million civil penalty under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for a 2006 oil spill lacked merit (United States of America v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., No. 16-30515, 5th Cir.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge in West Virginia on April 17 denied Fola Coal Co. LLC’s motion to dismiss a third lawsuit brought by environmental groups over discharges from two areas of its mine, finding that the allegations are not subject to the doctrines of collateral estoppel or res judicata (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, et al. v. Fola Coal Company LLC, No. 17-3013, S.D. W.Va., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64188).
NEW YORK — A New York federal judge on April 18 determined that an excess insurer owes its insured more than $55 million for environmental contamination costs incurred by the insured after an offset of approximately $2.6 million is applied based on the insured’s global settlement with its other insurers (Olin Corp. v. Lamorak Insurance Co., et al., No. 84-1968, S.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65446).