Category Archives: Court Cases

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Ordinance Requiring Pesticide Warning Signs Found to Violate First Amendment

A town cannot compel a utility company to post a warning notice that its utility poles contain a wood preservative.  That is the effect of U.S. District Judge Spatt’s February 4th decision in PSEG Long Island LLC v. Town of North Hempstead, 15-cv-0222, slip op. (E.D.N.Y Feb. 4, 2016). On September 9, 2014, the Town … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an important regulatory takings case, Murr v. Wisconsin

The Supreme Court on January 15 granted cert. in Murr v. Wisconsin, 359 Wisc. 2d 675 (Wis. App. 2014), rev. denied, 862 N.W.2d 899 (Wis. 2015), a regulatory takings case involving the “relevant parcel” or “parcel-as-a-whole” issue, one of the most important takings issues that the Supreme Court has never addressed. The relevant parcel issue, … Continue Reading

Annual Review of Environmental Cases from the Pennsylvania Courts

In January, my monthly column in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly reviewed the treatment of environmental issues by the Pennsylvania appellate courts in the previous year.  Read the very-cleverly-titled Environmental Cases in the Pennsylvania Courts During 2015, 39 Pa. L. Weekly 56 (Jan. 19, 2016), by clicking here. The cases addressed follow: Berner v. Montour Twp., 120 A.3d 433 (Pa. … Continue Reading

Further Thoughts on Valuing Contaminated Property

Some time ago, I offered some observations about how to value the diminution in property value caused by contamination.  I examined in particular the case of a property where someone other than the landowner had the obligation to clean up.  All of this was motivated by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’ decision in Harley-Davidson’s long-running property tax appeal. … Continue Reading

Federal Regulatory and Administrative Law Issues Impacted by Recent Supreme Court Decisions

As the Supreme Court’s new term begins, it will be considering several cases that could have a significant impact on cases involving the Administrative Procedure Act and other federal regulatory litigation. What follows is a summary of last term’s APA-related decisions followed by a preview of two cases currently on the Court’s docket for the … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Won’t Consider What Level of Deference States Should Be Given Under CERCLA

As noted previously, the Ninth Circuit found, in Arizona v. City of Tucson, 761 F.3d 1005 (9th Cir. 2014), that state government agencies are not afforded the same level of deference as EPA on the question of whether a CERCLA consent decree is fair, reasonable and consistent with CERCLA.  Arizona filed a petition for writ … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Reverses Class Certification Where Class Members Not Commonly Injured by Contamination on Their Property

On September 15, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s order certifying a class of property owners who sought nuisance based damages and injunctive relief. In Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co., No. 14-2191, 2015 WL 5332450 (8th Cir. Sept. 15, 2015) the Court concluded that there was no evidence showing that class members were … Continue Reading

When an Agency Changes its Mind: Lessons from Village of Kake

When administrations change, so does policy.  That may result in an agency changing its mind.  On the federal level, that change — particularly a change in a factual finding — will be subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Ninth Circuit recently considered such a change in position over whether the Tongass National … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Upholds EPA’s Authority for Chesapeake Bay TMDL

The Third Circuit recently determined that EPA acted within its statutory authority in publishing the Chesapeake Bay TMDL in American Farm Bureau Federation v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, No. 13-4079 (3d Cir. July 6, 2015).  My column for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly discusses the decision and the implications for Pennsylvania, a state that did … Continue Reading

Horne and Environmental Law: The case of the taken raisins

Horne v. Department of Agriculture, No. 14-275 (U.S. June 22, 2015), is a takings case about the price support program for California raisins.  That may seem a little far afield for environmental lawyers, but the case bears some careful analysis.  Among other things, the Court draws a distinction between the analysis appropriate for a regulatory … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Reverses and Remands MATS to D.C. Circuit for EPA Failure to Consider Costs

In a 5 to 4 split decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 29th, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) unreasonably interpreted the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) when EPA decided deemed that costs were irrelevant in deciding whether to regulate hazardous air emissions from electric utility sources under section 112 of … Continue Reading

A Different Level of Deference Given to States in CERCLA Consent Decrees

In a recent decision, Arizona v. City of Tucson, 761 F.3d 1005 (9th Cir. 2014), the Ninth Circuit found that state government agencies should not be afforded the same deference as EPA on the question of whether a CERCLA consent decree is fair, reasonable and consistent with CERCLA. In my recent column for Pennsylvania Law Weekly, I examine … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Dismisses Challenges to Proposed Clean Air Act Section 111(d) Rule

From Michael Cooke of GT Tampa The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied petitions to review the EPA’s proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing electric generating sources.  See In re Murray Energy Corporation, No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. June 9, 2015).    The proposed the rule was issued under section 111(d) … Continue Reading

Federal Court Holds Land Deposition of Air Emissions Can Constitute “Disposal” of “Solid Waste”

A federal district court ruled on March 10 that citizens may bring a RCRA imminent and substantial endangerment case based on the ground deposition of material emitted from a facility’s smoke stacks.  The Little Hocking Water Assoc., Inc. v. E.I. du Pont Nemours & Co., 2015 BL 64422, S.D. Ohio, No. 09-cv-1081, 3/10/15.  Explicitly rejecting … Continue Reading

Government Access to Contaminated Sites

Regulators need access to environmentally contaminated sites.  They have to study them to determine whether the contamination requires a cleanup, they have to choose a cleanup, they have to conduct or direct implementation of that cleanup, and then they have to provide for its monitoring and maintenance.  But when the contaminated property is not the … Continue Reading

2014 Environmental Cases in the Pennsylvania Appellate Courts

My column this month in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly summarizes most (maybe all) of the decisions of the Pennsylvania appellate courts with an environmental dimension in 2014.  Read A Review of 2014 Environmental Cases in Pa.’s Appellate Courts, 38 Pa. L. Weekly 28 (Jan. 13, 2015), by clicking here.  If I have left something out, … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment: Back to Payne v. Kassab?

We have a new opinion today under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth, No. 228 M.D. 2012 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Jan. 7, 2015).  Maybe the state constitution mandates some sort of environmental impact study before the commonwealth acts.  Maybe it means nothing more than that one must comply … Continue Reading

A New Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment Opinion . . . In Dissent

In Hess v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, No. 1370 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 22, 2014), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court en banc considered a petition for review of an order of the Public Utility Commission granting approvals for a transmission line crossing the Susquehanna River.  The majority opinion mostly addresses reliability and what constitutes public … Continue Reading

Environmental Policy as Part of Integrated Overall Policy

Environmental quality is important, but it is just one set of the objectives of public policy.  Is it possible to think about the incentives set by environmental regulatory decisions and the outcomes they induce as part of a more integrated policy? Perhaps not. Consider Michigan v. EPA, No. 14-46 (U.S. Nov. 25, 2014).  Last month, … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Examines Collateral Source Rule in CERCLA Cost Recovery and Contribution Case

On September 11, 2014, the Second Circuit issued its decision in New York State Electric & Gas Corp. v. FirstEnergy Corp., No. 11-4143, a CERCLA cost recovery and contribution case arising from the cleanup of coal tar contamination at sixteen manufactured gas plants in New York.  New York State Electric & Gas Corp (“NYSEG”) filed a … Continue Reading

Permitting Implications of UARG Decision

Last week, EPA issued guidance to its Regional Administrators that addresses some of the questions raised by the decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group  v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 134 S.Ct. 2427 (U.S. June 23, 2014) (“UARG”).   As discussed in our posts of June 23rd and July 14th, that decision raised several issues that … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Invalidates PUC Review of Local Natural Gas Regulation

In February 2012, Pennsylvania adopted comprehensive revisions to its Oil and Gas Act known as “Act 13.”  Among the changes was an expanded preemption of local regulation of oil and gas activities. Prior law prohibited municipalities from regulating “how” oil and gas development would proceed, but permitted zoning control over “where” development could occur. Act … Continue Reading

New York Court Tosses Property Owners’ Little NEPA Challenge to New York State’s Failure To Complete Hydraulic Fracturing EIS For Lack of Standing

A trial court in Albany, New York has landed another blow against high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“HVHF”) in New York by tossing two lawsuits (decisions available here and here) brought by property owners and a bankrupt operator challenging New York’s failure to complete its environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in a timely manner.  This comes a little … Continue Reading
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