Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Alfa Laval Inc.
In these consolidated appeals, the First Circuit affirmed the judgments of the district court finding that Thomas & Betts was “liable to” New Albertson’s and other parties were “liable to” Thomas & Betts for certain portions of “response costs” that had been incurred in the cleanup of Mother Brook, a canal in Boston, Massachusetts, following the canal’s contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls.The canal’s cleanup resulted in a lawsuit in which Thomas & Betts and New Albertson’s brought Massachusetts law claims against each other and various third parties. The claims were primarily brought under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 4 seeking reimbursement for the money each party had spent on the cleanup. The jury allocated the percentage of the response costs that each of the various parties were responsible for reimbursing to, respectively, New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts. The district court awarded prejudgment interest to New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts on the funds that had been awarded to each of them on their chapter 4 claims and then awarded New Albertson’s attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. View "Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Alfa Laval Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Environmental Law
City of Taunton v. United States Environmental Protection Agency
The First Circuit upheld the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose a limit - through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit - on the amount of nitrogen that the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant may discharge.After the final permit issued, the City of Taunton, Massachusetts appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), challenging both the need for any nitrogen limit and the specific limit that the permit imposed. The EAB denied the City’s administrative appeal on the merits. The City then appealed to the First Circuit, challenging the final agency action on various procedural and substantive grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that none of the City’s procedural or substantive challenges had merit. View "City of Taunton v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law
Posted in: Environmental Law
Conservation Law Foundation v. Pruitt
The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ two suits against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), holding that the EPA’s role in developing and approving several total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) in Massachusetts and Rhode Island did not constitute a decision that required the EPA to send notices under 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b), a regulation promulgated under the Clean Water Act (Act).In this case, Plaintiffs argued that, in helping to develop and in approving the TDMLs at issue, the EPA made certain determinations that triggered a duty to send notices in compliance with 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b). The lower courts found that these suits had no toehold in the Act’s limited authorization of citizen suits against the EPA, which is otherwise entitled to sovereign immunity. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs was not a decision that an individual permit was required within the meaning of the statute; (2) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs did not therefore trigger the notice requirement; and (3) consequently, the complaints alleged no failure by the EPA to perform a nondiscretionary duty. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Pruitt" on Justia Law
Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States
The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court order dismissing claims brought by Ironshore Specialty Insurance Company, the entity that paid the clean-up costs after a large military vessel spilled over 11,000 gallons of fuel next to Boston Harbor, against American Overseas Marine Company, LLC (AMSEA) and the United States. Ironshore sought cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a declaratory judgment finding AMSEA and the United States to be strictly liable under the OPA, and damages sounding in general admiralty and maritime law as a result of AMSEA’s and the United States’ alleged negligence. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of all of Ironshore’s claims against AMSEA; (2) affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s OPA claims against the United States; but (3) reversed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s general admiralty and maritime negligence claims brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act because these claims were not foreclosed by the OPA. View "Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law
Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service
Plaintiffs brought this action under the Administrative Procedure Act seeking review of two biological opinions (BiOps) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) evaluating requested modifications of existing licenses to operate four hydropower dams on the Kennebec River in Maine. FERC was required to obtain BiOps from the Fisheries Service on whether operating the dams under the proposed license modifications would jeopardize survival of the salmon species. The Fisheries Service issued an “incidental take statement,” finding that the proposed modifications would result in the incidental taking of individual fish among the protected population. Plaintiffs, environmental organizations participating in the licensing proceedings, challenged the statements. While the case was pending, FERC granted the license modifications. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that circumstances eliminated whatever claims of district court jurisdiction to review the BiOps Plaintiffs might have raised when this action was filed. View "Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service" on Justia Law
AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse
Municipal ordinances banning coal combustion residuals from landfills were preempted by Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board’s approval of the disposal.AES Puerto Rico, a coal-fired power plant owner, claimed that two municipal (Humacao and Peñuelas) ordinances banning the approved handling of "coal combustion residuals" (CCRs) were preempted by federal and Commonwealth law and violated various provisions of the federal and Puerto Rico constitutions. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) had authorized disposal of coal ash at the El Coquí and Peñuelas Valley landfills within those municipalities. The district court granted summary judgment for the municipalities on AES's federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the Commonwealth claims. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the local ordinances may not be enforced to the extent they directly conflict with Commonwealth law as promulgated by the EQB. View "AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse" on Justia Law
Boston Redevelopment Auth. v. Nat’l Park Serv.
At issue in this dispute was a piece of real estate, called Long Wharf, that juts into Boston Harbor. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) wished to develop the Long Wharf pavilion, which stands at the northern side of the Wharf, for commercial purposes, but the National Park Service (NPS) refused to grant the BRA permission to do so on the ground that the land remain open for recreational use. The BRA sued NPS and the Secretary of the Interior under the Land and Water Conservation Funds Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the decision of the NPS was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Boston Redevelopment Auth. v. Nat'l Park Serv." on Justia Law
Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC
Plaintiffs brought a citizen enforcement action under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act against Defendants, the owner of a neighboring parcel of land and the business operating on it, alleging that contaminated stormwater runoff from the property was being discharged into United States waters, contaminating Plaintiffs’ property, and that Defendants lacked a valid Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. After a trial, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof. Thereafter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in excluding from evidence a portion of certain expert witness testimony as a result of Plaintiffs’ tardiness in filing the witness’s revised expert report; (2) the district court did not err in granting judgment for Defendants; and (3) the district court’s award of attorney’s fees was not a clear error of judgment. View "Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC" on Justia Law
Peabody Essex Museum, Inc. v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co.
A few decades ago, an oil spill occurred on property in Salem, Massachusetts that was owned by Peabody Essex Museum. The pollution from the spill migrated to the land of a down gradient neighbor, Heritage Plaza. In 2003, Heritage Plaza discovered the subsurface contamination and notified the Museum. The Museum, in turn, gave prompt notice to state environmental authorities and to its insurer, United States Fire Insurance Company (U.S. Fire). The Museum filed a coverage suit against U.S. Fire and, in 2013, secured a judgment requiring U.S. Fire to pay the Museum over $1.5 million, including punitive damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. In this appeal, the parties challenged multiple district court rulings. The First Circuit affirmed the challenged rulings related to insurance coverage but reversed the finding of Chapter 93A liability and vacated the district court’s associated award of punitive damages, holding that U.S. Fire’s conduct under these circumstances was not the kind that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has condemned as egregious settlement misconduct that is actionable under Chapter 93A. View "Peabody Essex Museum, Inc. v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law
McCue v. Bradstreet
Plaintiff, a Maine dairy farmer, had a business dispute with Defendant, his neighbor, and the former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture (DOA). Soon after taking office, the Commissioner recused himself from regulatory matters involving Plaintiff. The DOA eventually took four adverse regulatory actions against Plaintiff, including the action of ceasing to protect Plaintiff from the regulatory authority of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP then issued several notices of violation of Plaintiff’s license conditions. As a result, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began administrative and judicial proceedings against Plaintiff that resulted in Plaintiff losing his farm. Plaintiff brought this suit for damages against Defendant, claiming that Defendant had violated his First Amendment rights through the adverse actions taken by the DOA. The district court awarded summary judgment against Plaintiff. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was correctly granted with respect tot he three adverse regulatory actions that the DOA was alleged to have taken after the Commissioner’s purported recusal; but (2) there was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the Commissioner’s retaliatory intent was a substantial or motivating factor in the one alleged adverse action that occurred prior to the recusal. Remanded. View "McCue v. Bradstreet" on Justia Law