In Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, LTD, Plaintiffs filed suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) against a Canadian mining company for disposing of slag and hazardous substances into the Upper Columbia River (UCR) and Lake Roosevelt, both in the U.S., where Plaintiffs fish, hunt and recreate. Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, 868 F. Supp. 2d 1106 (E.D. Wash. 2014). Plaintiffs alleged that the materials were directly emitted from Teck’s smelter located in British Columbia, Canada. 
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The Supreme Court recently denied certiorari of a Seventh Circuit opinion permitting parties to challenge “completed” phases of a staged remediation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), even where work in subsequent stages remains ongoing.  The decision in Frey v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 13-2142 (7th Cir. May 1, 2014) addressed the contours of the general statement that U.S. EPA’s decisions in an “on-going” remediation may not be challenged under CERCLA.  CERCLA Section 113(h)(4) provides that “[n]o Federal court shall have jurisdiction . . . to review any challenges to removal or remedial action” except during a limited number of actions, none of which allow a plaintiff to challenge an ongoing response action.  42 U.S.C. § 9613(h)(4).  Prior to Frey, courts applying this provision had found that parties are prohibited from reviewing ongoing clean-up activities under CERCLA.
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On September 25, 2014, the Seventh Circuit issued two opinions in litigation related to the Fox River Superfund site in Wisconsin.  The Fox River is a sediment site contaminated primarily with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the paper making industry.  In one of these decisions, the Seventh Circuit held that, based on evidence at trial, the environmental harm to the Fox River was theoretically capable of being apportioned among the potentially responsible parties (PRPs), and that a permanent injunction was not an appropriate remedy for enforcing a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  U.S. v. P.H. Glatfelter Co., No. 13-2436, 13-2441 (7th Cir. Sept. 25, 2014).
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A Phase I Site Assessment is used primarily to investigate commercial real estate for environmental conditions.  The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International provides a Standard Practice for environmental professionals undertaking a Phase I Site Assessment.  Last fall, ASTM International published a revised version of the Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process or “ASTM E1527-13.”  
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A recent Seventh Circuit decision addressed the contours of the general statement that USEPA’s decisions in an “on-going” remediation may not be challenged under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).  CERCLA Section 113(h)(4) provides that “[n]o Federal court shall have jurisdiction . . . to review any challenges to removal or remedial action” except during a limited number of actions, none of which allow a plaintiff to challenge an ongoing response action.  42 U.S.C. § 9613(h)(4).  Generally, courts applying this provision have found that parties are prohibited from reviewing ongoing clean-up activities under CERCLA.
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As a statute, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hinges on a variety of definitions which courts have applied inconsistently to cases since CERCLA passed. On October 15, 2013, the Second Circuit issued an important opinion that contrasted “removal” versus “remedial” activities under CERCLA.  New York v. Next Millennium Realty, LLC, No. 12-2894 (2d Cir. Oct. 15, 2013). Because the trigger for starting the statute of limitations period is different for a “removal” and a “remedial” action, the determination of whether an activity constitutes one or the other can be dispositive on whether an action is time-barred. In this opinion, the Second Circuit took an expansive reading of a “removal” action and essentially limited a “remedial action” to only those activities that are taken after a Record of Decision, and that address the permanent removal of contaminants.
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