Articles Posted in Environmental

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On May 15, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that the City of Oakland’s attempt to apply a new “coal ban” ordinance to a coal handling terminal was invalid. The District Court concluded that the record evidence placed before the City Council did not satisfy the ”substantial evidence” criteria contained in the development agreement entered into by the City and Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal (“OBOT”) governing a bulk cargo shipping terminal to be built and operated by OBOT. The case is Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal, LLC v. City of Oakland.

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On May 9, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska dismissed a challenge the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA); the case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke. While the District Court ruled that, while CBD had sufficient standing to make some of its arguments regarding the CRA, on the whole, it found that the constitutional and statutory arguments were inadequate to withstand the Government’s motion to dismiss.

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On May 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the jury’s verdict that two shipping companies were guilty of criminal violations of the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL. Both companies are headquartered in Greece, with Oceanic Illsabe Ltd. (Oceanic) being a Liberian corporation and Oceanfleet Shipping Ltd. (Oceanfleet) being a Marshall Islands corporation. The case is U.S. v. Oceanic Illsabe Ltd. and Oceanfleet Shipping Ltd.

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On April 12, a significant Clean Water Act (CWA) ruling has been made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit, in a split decision, held, in a case of first impression in this circuit, that the movement of a discharged pollutant through groundwater to navigable waters can constitute a violation of the CWA’s requirement that discharges of a pollutant from a point source to navigable waters is illegal unless the discharge has been permitted. The case is Upstate Forever and Savannah Riverkeeper v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, LP.

A few weeks ago, a similar decision was rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, et al., v. County of Maui.

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On May 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided the case of Daniels Sharpsmart, Inc. v. Smith, Director of the California Department of Public Health. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District to issue a preliminary injunction enjoining state health officials from enforcing, on an extraterritorial basis, provisions of the California Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA) against Daniels Sharpsmart, Inc., an Illinois-based corporation that “designs, develops, manufactures, markets and sells reusable sharps container systems for the disposal of needle-inclusive biohazardous medical products” (Daniels).

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On April 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held, in the case of California Dep’t of Toxic Substances Control v. Westside Delivery, LLC, that a purchaser of land at a California tax sale was not entitled to the third party defense for clean-up costs contemplated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act’s (CERCLA), known also as Superfund. The Ninth Circuit concluded that The panel concluded that Westside Delivery, LLC (Westside) had a “contractual relationship” with the pre-tax-sale owner of the property and that the previous owner caused contamination of the site “in connection with” its contractual relationship with Westside. The case has been remanded for further proceedings.

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The latest ruling in the long-running environmental insurance case, Olin Corporation v. Lamorak Ins. Co., was released on April 18, 2018, by Judge Rakoff of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of New York. Judge Rakoff granted motions for summary judgment filed by Olin Corporation (Olin) and The London Market Insurers, and awarded Olin $55M for its claims against Lamorak Insurance Company (Lamorak).

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On April 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided the case of St. Bernard Parish Government, et al., v. U.S., reversing a decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The Court of Claims had found that a Constitutional compensable “taking” had occurred with respect to the owners of real property located in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward of the City of New Orleans, whose properties had been damaged as a result of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina and other recent hurricanes.

“In summary, we conclude that the allegations of government inaction do not state a takings claim, and that plaintiffs have not established that the construction or operation of MRGO caused their injury.”

This could be a very important ruling affecting many thousands of Texas and Southeastern United States claims that are being filed in the Court of Claims in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

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Recent federal court rulings illustrate how the courts are serving as an umpire sometimes restraining the government and litigants.

On April 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a ruling, in Kuehl, et al., v. Sellner, et al., affirming the District Court’s decision which held that the defendants had violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in their operation of the Cricket Hollow Zoo (a licensed facility), located in Manchester, IA. The plaintiffs, which included the Animal Legal Defense Fund, sued the Sellners alleging that the conditions in which some endangered species (lemurs and tigers) were housed in the zoo amounted to a mistreatment of these endangered species.

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Section 40416 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 temporarily reinstates the Oil Spill Liability Tax that expired on December 31, 2017 for the period beginning on March 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018. Section 4611 of the Internal Revenue Code has, for many years, imposed a tax of $0.09 cents per barrel on crude oil received at a refinery, and on petroleum products entered into the U.S. for consumption, use, or warehousing.

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