Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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In 2004, after traveling from Venezuela to Paulsboro, New Jersey, Frescati’s single-hulled oil tanker, Athos, came within 900 feet of its intended berth and struck an abandoned anchor in the Delaware River, causing 264,000 gallons of crude oil to spill. The shipment was intended for CARCO. Frescati paid $143 million for the cleanup and was reimbursed $88 million by the government, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2701. The Third Circuit held that Frescati was a third-party beneficiary of CARCO’s warranty that CARCO’s berth would be safe if the ship had a draft of 37 feet or less and that CARCO had an unspecified tort duty of care. On remand, the district court held that CARCO was liable to Frescati and the government as Frescati’s subrogee, for breach of contract because the Athos had a draft of 36′7″ and exercised good seamanship; CARCO had a duty to use sonar to locate unknown obstructions in the berth approach and to remove obstructions or warn invited ships. CARCO argued that the conduct of the Coast Guard, NOAA, and the Army Corps of Engineers misled CARCO into believing that the government was maintaining the anchorage. The court awarded Frescati $55,497,375.958 for breach of contract and negligence, plus prejudgment interest. The government, after the court’s 50% reduction, was awarded $43,994,578.66 on its subrogated breach of contract claim. The Third Circuit affirmed in favor of Frescati on the breach of contract claim but vacated as to negligence. The court affirmed the government’s judgment with respect to its subrogated breach of contract claim but, because CARCO’s equitable recoupment defense failed, remanded for recalculation of damages and prejudgment interest. View "Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. v. Citgo Asphalt Refining Co." on Justia Law

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In 2004, after traveling from Venezuela to Paulsboro, New Jersey, Frescati’s single-hulled oil tanker, Athos, came within 900 feet of its intended berth and struck an abandoned anchor in the Delaware River, causing 264,000 gallons of crude oil to spill. The shipment was intended for CARCO. Frescati paid $143 million for the cleanup and was reimbursed $88 million by the government, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2701. The Third Circuit held that Frescati was a third-party beneficiary of CARCO’s warranty that CARCO’s berth would be safe if the ship had a draft of 37 feet or less and that CARCO had an unspecified tort duty of care. On remand, the district court held that CARCO was liable to Frescati and the government as Frescati’s subrogee, for breach of contract because the Athos had a draft of 36′7″ and exercised good seamanship; CARCO had a duty to use sonar to locate unknown obstructions in the berth approach and to remove obstructions or warn invited ships. CARCO argued that the conduct of the Coast Guard, NOAA, and the Army Corps of Engineers misled CARCO into believing that the government was maintaining the anchorage. The court awarded Frescati $55,497,375.958 for breach of contract and negligence, plus prejudgment interest. The government, after the court’s 50% reduction, was awarded $43,994,578.66 on its subrogated breach of contract claim. The Third Circuit affirmed in favor of Frescati on the breach of contract claim but vacated as to negligence. The court affirmed the government’s judgment with respect to its subrogated breach of contract claim but, because CARCO’s equitable recoupment defense failed, remanded for recalculation of damages and prejudgment interest. View "Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. v. Citgo Asphalt Refining Co." on Justia Law

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Tennessee Gas applied to several federal and state agencies seeking approval to build the Orion interstate pipeline project, comprising 12.9 miles of pipeline looping that would transport 135,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day via Pennsylvania. Approximately 99.5% of the new pipeline would run alongside existing pipeline. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit approving the project. Riverkeeper argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on its challenge because PADEP’s order was not final and that PADEP made an erroneous “water dependency” finding and improperly rejected a “compression” alternative to the pipeline project. The Third Circuit concluded that PADEP’s decision was final and upheld the decision on the merits because the agency’s unique interpretation of water dependency was reasonable and worthy of deference. PADEP considered and rejected the compression alternative for reasons that are supported by the record. Where an interstate pipeline project is proposed to be constructed,15 U.S.C. 717f provides “original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action for the review of an order or action of a . . . State administrative agency acting pursuant to Federal law to issue . . . any permit, license, concurrence, or approval . . . required under Federal law,” View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. Secretary, Pennsylvania Department Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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About 99.5% of the Orion Project, 12.9 miles of pipeline looping that would transport an additional 135,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas through Pennsylvania, would run alongside existing pipelines. According to Riverkeeper, construction will lead to deforestation, destruction of wetland habitats, and other forms of environmental damage. Riverkeeper asserts that such damage can be avoided by building or upgrading a compressor station. The Army Corps of Engineers, which administers certain provisions of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), 1362(7) issued a Section 404 permit approving the project. The Third Circuit rejected Riverkeeper’s challenge. The Corps considered the compression alternative but rejected it for reasons supported by the record. While the compression alternative would disturb less land, its impact would be mostly permanent. The pipeline project would disturb more land, but its impact would be mostly temporary. In making a policy choice between those environmental tradeoffs, the agency’s discretion “was at its apex.” View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Seneca, an oil and natural gas exploration and production company, sought to convert a natural gas well in Highland Township into a Class II underground injection control well in which to store waste from fracking. Highland Township, in Elk County, Pennsylvania, enacted an ordinance that, among other things, prohibited “disposal injection wells” from existing within Highland. In Seneca’s lawsuit, challenging the ordinance, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund sought to intervene on the side of the Township to represent the interests of underlying environmental groups (appellants). The district court denied its motion to intervene, holding that the Township adequately represented underlying interests in defending the ordinance. While a motion for reconsideration was pending, the Township repealed the ordinance and entered into a settlement with Seneca that culminated in a consent decree adopted by the district court. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that original motion to intervene was moot because there is no longer an ordinance to defend. The Consent Decree does not bind any of the appellants nor does it deprive them of any rights after the ordinance has been repealed. Because the appellants are nonparties, they cannot appeal the Consent Decree. View "Seneca Resources Corp v. Township of Highland" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the approval of a settlement of an FRCP 23(b)(3) class action arising out of hexavalent chromium contamination in Jersey City, New Jersey. The class action was brought on behalf of property owners in several neighborhoods whose homes were allegedly contaminated by by-products disposed of at chromium chemical manufacturing plants, owned and operated by the predecessors of Honeywell and PPG. Plaintiffs asserted common law tort claims and civil conspiracy claims for depreciation of their property values due to the alleged contamination, but not claims for harm other than economic loss to property value, such as personal injury or medical monitoring claims. The district court certified a settlement-only class as to the claims against Honeywell and approved a $10,017,000 settlement fund, which included an award of costs and attorneys’ fees for plaintiffs’ counsel. Overruling an objection by a member of the Honeywell settlement class, the Third Circuit concluded that the class certification requirements of FRCP 23(a) and (b)(3) are satisfied, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the settlement under FRCP 23(e) and the award of attorneys’ fees under FRCP 23(h). The court remanded for reconsideration of the award of costs under Rule 23(h). View "Halley v. Honeywell International Inc" on Justia Law

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Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile-long Transcontinental Pipeline from South Texas to New York City, sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, including construction of four new pipeline “loops” and the upgrade of turbines at four compressor stations. The Skillman Loop and the Pleasant Run Loop, totaling 13.23 miles, would be located in New Jersey; the Franklin Loop and Dorrance Loop, totaling 16.74 miles, would be located in Pennsylvania. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) completed the requisite Environmental Assessment and issued the certificate in December 2014, conditioned on Transco’s receipt of “all applicable authorizations under federal law” enumerated in the Environmental Assessment, including from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP, NJDEP) reviewed Transco’s proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued. In consolidated appeals, the Third Circuit upheld the approvals. NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in issuing the permits. View "New Jersey Conservation Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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In 2005 Constand alleged that William Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home. During the​ discovery process, Constand’s counsel took Cosby’s deposition and questioned him regarding whether other women had ingested Quaaludes prior to a sexual encounter with Cosby. The deposition resulted in discovery disputes. The court entered an interim order, requiring the parties to file discovery documents under seal. The Associated Press (AP) moved to intervene and opposed the order. The court denied the motion, stating that the record was not yet sufficient to determine whether a permanent seal was warranted. The sealed documents reveal several damaging admissions during Cosby's deposition, including that he had: engaged in extramarital affairs; acquired Quaaludes and engaged in sexual relations with a woman after she ingested the drug; and given money to one woman and offered money to Constand. Before the court could rule on whether the documents should remain sealed permanently, Cosby and Constand reached a confidential settlement. The case was dismissed. The interim sealing order continued in effect and the documents remained sealed. Though Local Rules require that the Clerk of Court send a notice stating that the documents will be unsealed unless an objection is filed, eight years passed without the Clerk taking action. In 2015, the court unsealed the records, following a request by AP. Finding an appeal moot, the Third Circuit declined to address whether the court properly balanced the public and private interests. View "Constand v. Cosby" on Justia Law

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Transco, which operates the 10,000-mile Transcontinental pipeline, extending from South Texas to New York City, sought federal approval to expand a portion of the pipeline, called the Leidy Line, which connects gas wells in Central Pennsylvania with the main pipeline. Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection (PADEP; NJDEP) reviewed the proposal for potential water quality impacts and issued permits. Environmental groups challenged the approvals. The Third Circuit concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the petitions and that NJDEP and PADEP did not act arbitrarily in issuing the permits. To bar review of PADEP’s actions in permitting an interstate natural gas facility pursuant to the Natural Gas Act and the Clean Water Act would frustrate the purpose of Congress’s grant of jurisdiction and render superfluous the explicit exception from federal judicial review of the Coastal Zone Management Act. The court also rejected NJDEP’s arguments that the court had no jurisdiction over the Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits or the Water Quality Certifications, and even if it had jurisdiction over those authorizations, it could not reach issues regarding aspects of Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permits that concern transition areas and threatened and endangered species, Letters of Interpretation, or Flood Hazard Area Individual Permits. View "Dela. Riverkeeper Network v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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MCA owns 85 acres in Maidencreek Township and hopes to develop into a 600,000 square-foot shopping center. The Township Board of Supervisors has taken the public position that the shopping center is “vital” to the economic well-being of Township residents. MCA and the Board claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to improve an adjacent highway, State Route 222, will impede the project. The highway improvement will be undertaken by PADOT on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, and fully funded by the federal government. MCA claims that the Project should not proceed because planned traffic circles would not be able to handle all of the traffic expected to be generated by its shopping center. The Project was approved in 2014. PADOT determined, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, that the Project qualified a Categorical Exclusion from preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment. MCA and the Board alleged that the Categorical Exclusion approval was based on inaccurate information supplied by PADOT that had not been adequately studied or investigated, and that the findings and conclusions contained therein were arbitrary and capricious. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal, finding the allegations insufficient to establish violation of NEPA. View "Maiden Creek Assocs. LP v. Pa. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law