Everyone knows that environmental cleanups are complicated. Sites can be geographically vast and varied, involve operations that have released chemicals over decades, and goal posts for how and what should be investigated, characterized, and – if necessary – remediated can change over time. The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in a case that could potentially throw remediation efforts at Superfund sites around the country – as Atlantic Richfield (the petitioner) put it – into “chaos.”
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Developing renewable energy on contaminated lands has proven to be both effective and cost-effective for companies pursuing a new solar or wind energy project. The utility-scale solar farm constructed on the 120-acre Reilly Tar & Chemical Corporation Superfund site is a great example, and there are thousands more that are ripe for redevelopment.
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In February, presidential advisor Steve Bannon stated that a primary goal of the Trump administration was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” One feature of the administrative state is “administrative deference,” which involves courts deferring to federal agencies’ interpretations of federal statutes – a topic that we have discussed repeatedly in the past few months,  see here and here.
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Under a recent summary judgment decision from a federal district judge, the EPA must continuously examine the effects that certain Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations have on employment in the coal industry specifically and other industries more broadly. This means the EPA will be subject to increased requirements before taking action under the CAA. The ruling also suggests that additional requirements could be imposed on the EPA under similar provisions in other environmental statutes, such as the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and CERCLA.
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May 13, 2015

1:00 – 6:00 p.m. CT

Schiff Hardin partner Gabriel Rodriguez will welcome attendants to the ABA Section of Litigation Regional Workshop entitled “Litigating a CERCLA Allocation Case – Pre-Trial Strategies and Trial Techniques.” The workshop panelists will include a Judge from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, two nationally recognized experts with significant experience in these matters, and several seasoned trial counsel. A networking reception for all speakers and attendees will follow the programs.
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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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