Thursday, February 25, 2010

Niagara Mohawk Power Assn. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc.

Feb 24: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 08-3843. As explained by the Appeals Court, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (NiMo) commenced this action to recover costs pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) from the defendants for cleanup of properties previously owned by NiMo and once either owned, leased, or used by the defendants. In the appeal, NiMo challenges orders of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York which denied NiMo's motion for summary judgment, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and denying NiMo's motion for reconsideration.
    We are called upon to determine whether NiMo, as a potentially responsible party under CERCLA, can seek response and cleanup costs under either § 107(a)(4)(B) or § 113(f)(3)(B), after having settled its CERCLA liability with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) but not with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where the EPA has not expressly authorized the DEC to settle CERCLA liability relating to the property at issue.
    The Appeals Court said, "We hold that NiMo may seek contribution costs under § 113(f)(3)(B) because NiMo has settled with the DEC, but consequently NiMo may not seek reimbursement for response costs under § 107(a). We hold that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the defendants because there are genuine issues of material fact with regards to their respective liabilities.
    Additionally, the Appeals Court ruled, "We hold that the district court erred by holding that NiMo did not comply with the National Contingency Plan. We hold that the district court erred in part by dismissing NiMo's New York Navigation Law claims. Finally, we hold that the district court erred in dismissing Chevron's third party action against the County of Rensselaer and others. We affirm, however, the district court's dismissal of NiMo's state contribution, indemnity, and unjust enrichment claims because they are preempted by CERCLA."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).