Recent Cases - Environmental

Summary

Prop 65 Plaintiffs routinely file most Prop 65 cases in Alameda County, presumably because they believe it is a plaintiff-friendly forum. However, the California Court of Appeal recently issued a victory for Prop 65 defendants, finding that Prop 65 matters may be transferred to the venue where the cause arose. Dow Agrosciences LLC v. Superior Court (2017 1st Dist.)16 Cal.App.5th 1067.[1]
Continue Reading Prop 65 Victory For Defendants – Defendants Are Entitled To Have Their Cases Heard In the County Where the Claim Arose

Natural Resources Defense Council v. E.P.A., __ F.3d ___, 2017 WL 2324714 (9th Cir. May 30, 2017). The Ninth Circuit Court has vacated the conditional registration of the pesticide NSPWL30SS (“NSPW”)—an antimicrobial materials preservative that uses nanosilver as its active ingredient—on the grounds that the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) failed to provide substantial evidence that the use of the ingredient was in the public interest. Id. at *2.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Vacates Condition Registration for Nanosilver-containing Pesticide Due to Lack of Evidence that its Use is in The Public Interest

Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement v. City of San Diego, 8 Cal. App. 5th 350 (Cal. Ct. App. 2017). The Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal concluded that the City of San Diego could not be held liable for public nuisance associated with the stench created by sea lions because the City did not create the nuisance.
Continue Reading California Court Of Appeal Rejects Citizens Group Nuisance Case Regarding Sea Lion Stench

Asarco LLC v. Noranda Mining, Inc., 844 F.3d 1201 (10th Cir. 2017). In a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) contribution action, the Tenth Circuit ruled that a mining company, whose liability for a contaminated site had been resolved in a settlement agreement approved by the bankruptcy court, could still seek contribution against other potentially responsible parties (PRPs), claiming that it overpaid its fair share of cleanup costs for the site. Id. at 1208. The Tenth Circuit also determined that contribution claims are permitted even against a party to a prior consent decree so long as the claims were not specifically resolved by the consent decree. Id. at 1211–12.
Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Finds CERCLA Contribution Claim Not Barred by Bankruptcy Approval of a Settlement Estimating Liability for the Site

California Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, et al., Case No. C075930 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d. Dist., 2017).

On April 6, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District issued its long-awaited decision in the consolidated lawsuits challenging the greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emission allowance auctions, which are a key component of the California Air Resources Board’s (“CARB”) Cap-and-Trade Program.  The court held that CARB has the authority to establish the auctions and that they do not constitute an illegal tax.  The second holding is key and breaks new legal ground; it also was made over a strong dissent.  As the court put it, “the hallmarks of a tax are: 1) that it is compulsory; and 2) that the payor receives nothing of particular value for payment of the tax.”  (Op. at 5.)  The auction system is not a tax because 1) “the purchase of allowances is a voluntary decision driven by business judgments as to whether it is more beneficial to the company to make the purchase than to reduce emissions,” and 2) “the allowances are valuable, tradable commodities, conferring on the holder the privilege to pollute.”  (Id.)  This is a major victory for the Program and the State’s efforts to address climate change by reducing GHG emissions. However, there is a question whether the decision will stand.  There was a strong dissent, and the decision is sure to be appealed to the California Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the Legislature is currently at work on crafting legislation aimed at determining how the existing ambitious emission reduction mandates will be met.  The court’s decision will factor into those critical legislative deliberations, which will resume later this month after the spring recess.
Continue Reading GHG Allowance Auctions are Not a Tax; Key Element of State’s Cap-and-Trade Program Upheld

In a recent trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in the matter AFS Enterprises, LLC, v. Reckitt Benckiser, PLC, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC539678, the plaintiff brought a single claim under Proposition 65 (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, California Health and Safety Code sections 25249.1 et seq.) against the makers of Brasso, a brass polish, arguing that the manufacturer was obligated to provide a Proposition 65 warning for the product.  Proposition 65 requires manufacturers and retailers to provide warnings for products sold to California consumers if the products expose consumers to certain chemicals including lead.  Here, the plaintiff’s argument was unique.  Although Brasso itself does not contain lead, the plaintiff argued that a warning was nevertheless required because the polish, when used on certain brass surfaces, releases lead. The manufacturer argued that it should be exempt from the warning requirement because the amount of lead customers are exposed to when using the polish does not exceed the “Maximum Allowable Dose Level.”  The court, after weighing testimony of the various experts at trial, issued a Statement of Decision on May 12, 2016 wherein the court ultimately agreed that the manufacturer is not required to provide a Proposition 65 warning.
Continue Reading Los Angeles Superior Court Issues Important Defense Verdict In Unique Proposition 65 Trial Against Brass-Polish Manufacturer

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et al. 573 U.S. ____ (2014)

On June 23, 2014, the United States Supreme Court held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act when it attempted to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources not already subject to a permit controlling emissions of more conventional pollutants.  The Court reasoned the Act’s language did not compel the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from such sources and, further, that the EPA’s efforts to do so were incompatible with Congress’s intent.  The Court further held, however, that stationary sources that did need a permit for their emissions of conventional pollutants could be subject to further regulation for emitting greenhouse gases.  This holding likely means the greenhouse gas emissions of many hotels, offices, residential buildings, retail establishments, and similar facilities will remain immune to the Clean Air Act’s permit requirements because such sources do not typically emit conventional pollutants at sufficient levels to require a permit.  Conversely, stationary sources that are required to get a permit for emitting conventional pollutants likely will also be subject to EPA regulation regarding their greenhouse gas emissions.

Continue Reading Only When a Permit is Required: The Supreme Court Caps the EPA’s Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Stationary Sources

On October 15, 2013, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review six of the nine submitted petitions stemming from an appellate court ruling upholding Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) greenhouse gas (“GHG”) controls at utilities, factories and other facilities around the country.  Specifically, the challenged appellate ruling from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld EPA’s GHG emission endangerment findings, rebuffed challenges to the EPA’s tailpipe rule for automobile emissions and its applicability to stationary sources, and determined the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming.  However, the Supreme Court’s review will be more limited than some petitioners sought and should not jeopardize the Obama administration’s larger climate-change agenda.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Grants Limited Review of GHG Emissions Regulations

Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board et al., A132165 (1st  Dist. Div. 3, June 19, 2012)

By Randolph Visser and Whitney Hodges

On June 19, 2012, the California First District Court of Appeal upheld the California Air Resources Board’s (“ARB”) Climate Change Scoping Plan (“Scoping Plan”), which charts dozens of climate change control measures. This ruling clears the way for ARB to move forward with its designated plan to combat greenhouse gas (“GhG”) emissions with a market-based cap-and-trade program. The decision also found the Scoping Plan to be in compliance with the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32, which required ARB to prepare a scoping plan to reduce GhG emissions to 1990 levels by the end of 2020. A ruling against ARB could have forced ARB to revise the Scoping Plan and freeze implementation of its GhG regulations.

Continue Reading California Appellate Court Greenlights Air Resources Board’s Cap-And-Trade Program [1]