No CERCLA “Arranger Liability” for Falling Air Emissions, Ninth Circuit Holds

sboxermanFeatured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy

By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Katharine Falahee Newman, Sidley Austin LLP

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued a long-awaited decision interpreting the meaning of “disposal” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court determined that parties who release air emissions containing hazardous substances that may later come to rest on downwind land and water are not liable as arrangers under CERCLA.  It is a sensible reading of the statute—as a contrary reading could open the door to substantial additional litigation. Continue reading

Fifth Circuit’s Frog-Habitat Ruling Endangers Common Sense and Growth in Louisiana

st_tammany_navBy Trey Wassdorf, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law.

At the behest of special-interest activists and government regulators, federal courts continue to broaden the scope of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), often in ways that do little to actually preserve plants and animals.  The latest expansive ruling comes from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  In Markle Interests, L.L.C. v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the court upheld the designation of 1,544 acres of private land in Louisiana as “critical habitat” for the dusky gopher frog, Rana sevosa, even though it does not reside on the land and the land does not currently feature the characteristics needed to support the frog. Continue reading

Fish and Wildlife Service’s Delisting of Lesser Prairie Chicken a Win, and a Test, for Voluntary Conservation

Lesser Prairie Chicken

Lesser Prairie Chicken

On July 20, 2016, ten months after a U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas judge ruled that federal regulators erred in finding the lesser prairie chicken “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized its delisting decision. The decision not only validates the work of a public-private bird-conservation partnership, it will also test the viability of such state-based efforts. Continue reading

North Dakota Becomes First Petitioner to Challenge EPA’s Methane Rule

sboxermanFeatured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy

By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP

On July 15, 2016, North Dakota became the first petitioner to challenge the Obama Administration’s unprecedented Clean Air Act rule governing methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas sources (“Methane Rule”).1  More petitions are anticipated.

The rule—also referred to as the “QuadOa” rule,2—sets emissions standards for methane at certain new and modified upstream and midstream oil and gas sources and requires owners and operators of affected sources to implement a leak-detection program to identify and repair fugitive emission leaks.  Home to the Bakken Shale formation and now the nation’s second largest oil-producing state, North Dakota has a substantial interest in the burdens and benefits of the rule. Continue reading

At Oral Argument, Ninth Circuit Appeared Poised to Preempt Hawaii GMO Ordinances

9thCirOn June 15, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in three related bids to invalidate separate Hawaiian county ordinances.  The counties of Maui and Hawaii ban the cultivation of genetically engineered crops or plants, while Kauai County requires that cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be annually disclosed to the county.  Opponents allege that the ordinances are preempted by state and federal statutes and regulations governing agriculture and “plant pests.”  Three separate federal district courts found that the ordinances were preempted, causing the counties, or their interested intervenors, to appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Continue reading

WLF’s Annual End-of-Term Review Assesses Key Supreme Court Free-Enterprise Decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court: October 2015 Term Review

Speakers: The Honorable Jay Stephens, Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Andrew J. Pincus, Mayer Brown LLP; Elizabeth P. Papez, Winston & Strawn LLP; Jeffrey B. Wall, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Our speakers discussed Court rulings in the areas of class actions, arbitration, the federal False Claims Act, intellectual property, federal regulation, and property rights.

Supreme Court Observations: U. S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes, Co.

sboxermanFeatured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy

By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Ben Tannen, Sidley Austin LLP

On May 31, 2016, the US Supreme Court held that a Clean Water Act (CWA) “jurisdictional determination” (JD) was final agency action subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes, Co.  Hawkes empowers landowners to challenge decisions that the CWA applies to a specific parcel of property immediately after that determination, rather than after an enforcement action or completion of the lengthy and burdensome permitting process.  The judgment was unanimous, with seven of eight justices signing on to Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court; Justice Ginsburg concurred in the judgment.

The underlying dispute involved the CWA’s most controversial provision: Section 404, which prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into “waters of the United States” without a permit.1  Section 404 directs the Army Corps to issue permits authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Continue reading