Articles Posted in Environmental Law

by
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations require that those deemed to be liable after a spill of hazardous materials within a specified radius of a public water supply undertake cleanup and monitoring to ensure the spill does not pose a danger to that water supply, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0801, 40.0810, 40.0993(3)(a), 40.1030(2)(e). A 2007 modification exempts "oil" from some requirements when specific conditions are met, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0924(2)(b)(3)(a). Peterborough owns a now-vacant Athol property, within a protection area, where it operated a gasoline station for more than 10 years. In 1994, a release of leaded gasoline from a subterranean gasoline storage tank was detected in soil on the site. DEP required Peterborough to undertake supervised cleanup and monitoring activities. In 2008, after the oil exemption was established, Peterborough submitted a revised plan, stating that further remediation was not required because the entirety of the spill fell within the exemption's definition of "oil." DEP responded that the meaning of "oil" in the exemption does not include gasoline additives such as lead, but refers only to petroleum hydrocarbons naturally occurring in oils, so that a spill of leaded gasoline could not be completely excluded from further remediation. The trial court, on summary judgment, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, upheld the DEP interpretation of the regulation as reasonable. View "Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

by
Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), the Department of Environmental Protection was required to promulgate regulations “establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions” by a certain date. When the Department failed to take action by the statutory deadline, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus, arguing that the Department had failed to fulfill its statutory mandate under section 3(d). The superior court judge entered judgment in the Department’s favor, concluding that the Department substantially complied with the requirements of section 3(d). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the three regulatory initiatives cited by the Department fell short of complying with the requirements of section 3(d). Remanded. View "Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

by
Property owners sued the City of New Bedford seeking damages arising from soil contamination around a site that the City had operated as an unrestricted ash dump. The City retained a consultant at TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) to prepare documents to assist the city solicitor in advising the City as to the potential litigation. The City then filed a third-party complaint alleging cost recovery claims against various third-party defendants. During discovery, some third-party defendants moved to compel production of the TRC documents. The motion judge allowed the motion, thus rejecting the City’s claim that the TRC work product was protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judge’s order, holding (1) “opinion” work product and “fact” work product that was prepared in anticipation of litigation generally falls outside the definition of “public records” under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, 7(26); and (2) where work product is exempted from disclosure under the public records act, it is protected from disclosure in discovery to the extent provided by Mass. R. Civ. P. 26. View "DaRosa v. City of New Bedford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

by
At issue in this case was a performance bond issued by Stanley Black and Decker, Inc. to secure the obligation of an environmental consulting company to perform environmental remediation of contaminated property, a portion of which was owned by Stanley. A.J. Properties, LLC commenced the underlying action against Stanley alleging that it had been assigned the right to recover all funds paid to Stanley under the performance bond. Specifically, A.J. Properties argued that Stanley had assigned the rights to payment when it assigned a mortgage on the property to the Wyman-Gordon Company, which assigned the mortgage to A.J. Properties. A federal district court judge determined that A.J. Properties was entitled to the amounts paid to Stanley under the rule of Quaranto v. Silverman. Stanley appealed, and the court of appeals recommended certification of a question of law to the First Circuit. The First Circuit answered the question as follows: “Where a mortgage and a surety agreement secured an obligation, and both the mortgagor and the surety committed a breach of that obligation prior to a written assignment of the mortgage, the assignee does not necessarily acquire the right against the surety’s receiver for the surety’s breach of its obligation.” View "A.J. Props., LLC v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioners owned thirty-six acres of land in Hampden. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Division), a unit of the Department of Environmental Protection, restricted Petitioners’ ability to construct a home on their land by delineating the property as a “priority habitat” for the eastern box turtle, a “species of special concern” under 321 Mass. Code Regs. 10.90. Petitioners challenged the validity of the priority habitat regulations insofar as they allowed the Division to designate priority habitat without affording landowners the procedural protections due under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) to those owning property within significant habitats. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of the Division, concluding that the regulations did not exceed the scope of the Division’s authority as granted by MESA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the priority habitat regulations were a reasonable implementation of the enabling statute. View "Pepin v. Div. of Fisheries & Wildlife" on Justia Law

by
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) assessed a penalty against Plaintiff for improper handling and disposal of roof shingles that contained asbestos. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that, pursuant to the Administrative Penalties Act, it was entitled to a notice of noncompliance and the opportunity to cure any violations before the imposition of a penalty. The commissioner of the DEP affirmed the penalty after accepting the recommendation of a hearing officer, finding that Plaintiff's failure to comply fell within one of the exceptions to the notice requirement because it was "willful and not the result of error." The hearing officer interpreted this language, otherwise called the "willfulness exception," as requiring only a showing of the "intent to do an act that violates the law if done." The Supreme Court affirmed the agency's disposition but on different grounds, holding (1) the DEP's decision was based on an error of law because its interpretation of the willfulness exception did not comport with the clear meaning of the relevant statute; but (2) Plaintiff's conduct was willful and not the result of error within the meaning of the Act because Plaintiff knew or should have known of the likely presence of asbestos in the shingles. View "Franklin Office Park Realty Corp. v. Comm'r of Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

by
This action arose from the Department of Environmental Protection's (Department) issuance of a waterways license under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 91 (chapter 91 license) to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to redevelop a section of land owned by the BRA on the seaward end of Long Wharf (project site). Plaintiffs, ten residents of Boston's North End neighborhood, appealed the issuance of the chapter 91 license, claiming the Department acted unconstitutionally and beyond its statutory authority when it issued the license without obtaining two-thirds vote of the Legislature as required by article 97 of the amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. After the a Department's office of appeals affirmed the issuance of the license, the superior court ordered declaratory relief and issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Department to enforce article 97. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that article 97 did not apply to the project site, and therefore, a two-thirds vote of the Legislature was not required to approve the planned development. Remanded. View "Mahajan v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

by
Since at least 1986, the town had a deteriorating sewer system. Defects allowed inflow and infiltration (I/I). Wet weather caused overflow, contaminating the ocean, rivers, and wetlands. To avoid overflow into housing, the town installed, without approval, a bypass pump that discharged raw sewage into the Saugus River. In 2005, the town entered into a consent order with the Department of Environmental Protection, acknowledging violations of the Clean Water Act and state law; the town was required to implement plans to eliminate I/I. There was a moratorium on new connections until the problem was addressed. The town embarked on a 10-year, $27 million dollar plan. Ratepayers were to finance the majority of the plan. In the interim, the town required new connections to pay an I/I reduction contribution, calculated by multiplying, by a factor that decreased as repairs were completed, the number of gallons of new flow to be generated. Plaintiff, developers, paid $670,460 to accommodate new flow from the single-family houses and multifamily housing. The trial court concluded that the charge provided no particularized benefit to the developers; that the amount was excessive compared to regulatory costs involved; and that the charge was an impermissible tax. The Massachusetts Supreme Court vacated, finding that the charge is a fee. View "Denver St. LLC v. Town of Saugus" on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from the proposed redevelopement of private property within the Middlesex Fells Reservation. Plaintiffs commenced an action against Fellsway Development LLC; Langwood Commons LLC; the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (Secretary); and the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief from alleged violations of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), G.L.c. 30, section 61-62H, and regulations promulgated thereunder, 301 Code Mass. Regs. 11.00. Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing Counts I, II, and III of plaintiffs' complaint, brought under section 7A and G.L.c. 231A, against the Secretary for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. As against the developers and the DCR, the court reversed only the judgment dismissing plaintiffs' complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under section 7A, and alleging a violation of MEPA's antisegmentation regulation promulgated at 301 Code Mass. Regs. 11.01(2)(c). Therefore, the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ten Persons of the Commonwealth & another v. Fellsway Development LLC & others" on Justia Law