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Mississippi Federal Court Rejects RCRA Preemption

Illustrating limits on Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) preemption of state tort claims, a Mississippi federal court concluded that the state’s toxic tort claims were not preempted by federal law.  See Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. Meritor, Inc, No. 17-CV-74 SA/JMV, Memorandum Opinion and Order at 1, 9 (N.D. Miss. Mar. 13, 2018). 

Mississippi’s Attorney General brought suit in Mississippi’s chancery court seeking injunctive relief against defendants in this action from “discharging contaminants into the groundwater and surface waters, releasing toxic sludge and chemicals onto the ground and emitting thousands of tons of hazardous chemicals into the air through its operation of an automobile wheel cover (hubcap) plant.”  Id. at 1.  Among the state’s claims were gross negligence, public nuisance, and trespass.  Defendant removed the case to federal court, arguing that RCRA and EPA’s RCRA regulatory and permitting scheme preempted the state’s tort claims. 

The court, concluded that “resolution of Plaintiff’s claims does not require the interpretation of a substantial issue of federal law,” and that “remedies granted to the Plaintiff for its common-law tort claims would not necessarily require interference with the terms of the permit.”  Id. at 4, 7.  The court granted the motion to remand because the defendants were simply asserting compliance with RCRA as a defense to the plaintiff’s tort claims; the defendants’ “arguments result in an application of ordinary preemption principals that do not merit removal jurisdiction.”  Id. at 8.