Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Litgo New Jersey Inc v. Comm NJ Dept Env Protection

Aug 6: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, Case No. 12-1288 & 12-1418 . Appealed from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. In a split opinion, the Majority Appeals Court summarizes saying the appeal follows a seventeen-day bench trial that involved several claims arising under Federal and State environmental laws. At issue is which parties bear the responsibility for the removal of hazardous substances present in the soil and groundwater at a parcel of land in Somerville, New Jersey (the Litgo Property or Property).  The Appeals Court says although the issue is "complicated by the fact that the Property has been the site of various private and public concerns since 1910, the District Court engaged in a careful examination of the evidence and the arguments of the parties, and we essentially agree with its adjudication of the case. We disagree with the District Court's determination, however, in two respects, and will reverse in part and remand."
    The Majority concludes, ". . .we agree with the great majority of the District Court's comprehensive and thoughtful consideration of this complex case, and will affirm its judgment in all respects save two: (1) the Litgo Appellants should have been awarded prejudgment interest; and (2) the District Court erred in dismissing the RCRA claim against the Sanzari Appellees. We will vacate the District Court's order in those respects and will remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."    

    In a lengthy dissenting opinion the Justice concluded, "The majority opinion reaches its conclusion notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing in the text, intent, history, or purpose of RCRA indicating that Congress affirmatively prohibited the states from hearing and deciding cases brought pursuant to RCRA. The majority in its opinion has accordingly defied enduring Supreme Court precedents that go as far back as 1876. . . federal authority cannot excessively intrude on local regulation of land and water, it is essential (absent an express Congressional declaration otherwise) that the states should, through their own courts, be able to enforce the laws governing pollution of their land, even when the source of the law is federal. I am compelled to part company with my colleagues in the majority because they have failed to adhere to Supreme Court precedent interpreting Congress' legislation. As I have pointed out, since at least 1867 the Supreme Court has required federal courts to recognize dual jurisdiction in matters such as RCRA. The majority here has not. "
    Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here). [#Haz, #Drink, #Remed, #CA3]