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Showing 35 posts in CERCLA/Superfund. View our practice description for CERCLA/Superfund.

Legal Whipsaw in Washington Sawmill Case: State Supreme Court Decision Fundamentally Changes the Scope of Liability Under the Model Toxics Control Act

On May 24, 2018, in a significant decision with far-reaching implications for cleanups at Washington’s contaminated sites, the Washington State Supreme Court narrowed the scope of “owner or operator” liability under the state environmental cleanup statute, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).  Pope Resources, LP v. Washington State Department of Natural Resources.[1]  The surprising 6-3 decision held:  (1) that a state agency – in this case, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – may not be liable as an “owner” under MTCA when it merely acts as a lessor, or property management agent, for a property owned by the state; and (2) that liability as an “operator” under MTCA requires active involvement in the operational decisions at a facility. Read More ›

New York High Court Rules on “Unavailability Exception” to Pro Rata Allocation in Long-Tail Environmental Coverage Case

The New York Court of Appeals ruled last week that if an insurance policy provides for pro rata allocation to determine the insurance coverage responsibility for environmental contamination spanning multiple policy periods, the policyholder bears the risk of loss for periods where pollution coverage was unavailable for purchase. Keyspan Gas East Corp. v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., No. 20 (Slip Op. Mar. 27, 2018). Read More ›

EPA Proposes Revisions to Rules for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities

Today, EPA published a proposal to amend the regulations in 40 CFR Part 257, Subpart D, governing the disposal of coal combustion residuals (“CCR” or coal ash) in landfills and surface impoundments.  The proposed rule is the first (i.e., “Phase One”) of potentially two proposals to amend EPA’s CCR rules, which the agency finalized in April 2015.  Today’s Phase One proposal reflects an EPA willingness to build certain operational flexibility into the CCR rules, and to revisit some of the details of the governing standards.   It is a detailed proposal that merits a close review by facilities with CCR units regulated under the rules, and those that are otherwise concerned with compliance with the CCR rules. Read More ›

EPA Sees New Challenges Ahead for Superfund

EPA released a four-year “strategic plan” on February 12 that continues to emphasize the Superfund program as one of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s top priorities.  While it has been clear since last summer’s Superfund Task Force report that the agency’s new leadership wants to accelerate Superfund site cleanups, the agency’s new strategic plan reveals for the first time that EPA also sees emerging challenges ahead for Superfund. Read More ›

CERCLA Task Force Issues Recommendations

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a set of Task Force recommendations that are aimed at improving the Superfund program.  The Agency’s adoption of these recommendations is another indication that demonstrable change to CERCLA implementation is of interest to the Trump administration.   It follows the EPA Administrator’s May 9 retraction of certain remedy selection authority from regional offices. Read More ›

Insurance Policyholders Score Victory on Critical Allocation Issue in Second Circuit Olin Decision

In an action seeking insurance coverage for environmental contamination, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that “all sums” allocation would apply to the policies at issue, and therefore the policyholder could choose which of the multiple triggered policy periods it preferred to cover the entire loss, up to the limits of the policies in that year.  Olin Corp. v. OneBeacon Am. Ins. Co., No. 15-2047(L) (2d Cir. July 18, 2017). Read More ›

EPA Issues NPDES Remediation General Permit Renewal for Massachusetts

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) renewed the NPDES General Permit for Remediation Activity Discharges in Massachusetts effective April 8, 2017.  This permit authorizes discharges from contaminated sites as well as a collection of miscellaneous discharges that may be contaminated.  A companion permit was issued covering these discharges in New Hampshire.  According to the US EPA Fact Sheet, discharges from about 750 remediation projects were authorized under the 2010 permits, mostly in Massachusetts.   Read More ›

EPA Retracts CERCLA Remedy Selection Authority from Regional Offices for Remedies that Exceed $50 Million

On May 9, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued two new delegations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) that limit to the Administrator (and possibly the Deputy Administrator) the authority to select remedies estimated to cost over $50 million. One delegation concerns Superfund sites generally; the other relates to federal facilities. Previously, all remedy selection was delegated to the Assistant Administrator for Office of Land and Emergency Management and the Regional Administrators. The authority to sign Records of Decision estimated to cost less than $50 million remains with those officials. A copy of the revised delegations and accompanying memorandum are available here.   Read More ›

Lost Insurance Policy? Pursuing Coverage for Long-Tail Environmental Liability Still Feasible

Companies facing environmental cleanup liability typically confront claims that are brought multiple decades after the alleged polluting activity took place. This passage of time often results in the loss or disappearance of crucial historic documents, including insurance policies, necessary to respond to the claims.  Historic general liability insurance policies issued before pollution exclusions became commonplace in the 1970s are of particular value in protecting a company from exposure to “long-tail” environmental liability.  Finding these policies, or evidence of their existence, therefore is a must.  A recent New Jersey federal court decision serves as a helpful reminder that when the actual policies cannot be located, even limited documentary evidence of their existence, when buttressed by the expert testimony of a credentialed insurance archaeologist, may be sufficient to prove the coverage and facilitate recovery. Read More ›

D.C. Circuit Signals Limits on EPA’s Authority to Reduce Requirements in Existing Environmental Rules: Waterkeeper Alliance v. US EPA

As the Trump Administration seeks to re-write many of the nation’s environmental rules, the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, has issued a decision in Waterkeeper Alliance v. US EPA that signals the important oversight role the federal courts will play in reviewing executive actions, providing a cautionary note on the limits of executive authority. Read More ›