Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
New England Power Generators Ass’n v. Department of Environmental Protection
The Supreme Judicial Court upheld 310 Code Mass. Regs. 7.74 (Cap Regulation), which imposes declining greenhouse gas emissions limits on the in-State electric sector through 2050, holding that none of the arguments raised by Plaintiffs against the Cap Regulation was meritorious.Plaintiffs argued, among other things, that a key provision of the Global Warming Solutions Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), which directs the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate regulations establishing declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions, does not apply to the electric sector because that sector is regulated by a separate provision, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(c). The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the Department and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have the authority to promulgate regulations under section 3(d) to establish emission limits on the electric sector; (2) the projected effects of the Cap Regulation do not render section 3(d) arbitrary and capricious or inconsistent with the statutory purpose of reducing emissions; and (3) the Legislature did not intend to render section 3(d) meaningless after December 31, 2020. View "New England Power Generators Ass’n v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law
Miramar Park Ass’n. v. Town of Dennis
At issue was whether dredging and beach nourishment projects undertaken by the Town of Dennis requiring that materials dredged from the mouth of a tidal river be deposited on a publicly-owned beach rather than a privately-owned beach violated state environmental regulations.Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment claiming that the Town’s actions violated a regulation of the Department of Environmental Protection designed to protect beaches that are downdraft from jetties from loss of sediments caused by the jetties. The superior court allowed Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and issued an injunction permanently requiring the Town periodically to redredge the river and to deposit the dredged material on Plaintiffs’ private beach.The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of injunction and reversed the judgment allowing summary judgment for Plaintiffs, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to show that the Town’s extension of the jetty violated the requirements of 310 Code Mass. Regs. 10.27(4)(c); and (2) the Town’s subsequent dredging of the river did not trigger the requirements of that regulation. View "Miramar Park Ass’n. v. Town of Dennis" on Justia Law
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Attorney General
There was personal jurisdiction over Exxon Mobil Corporation with respect to the Attorney General’s investigation into whether Exxon knew, long before the general public, that emissions from fossil fuels contributed to climate change and whether the company sought to undermine the evidence of climate change in order to preserve its value as a company.Based on her authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 6, the Attorney General issued a civil investigative demand (CID) to Exxon Mobil Corporation seeking information and documents relating to Exxon’s knowledge of and activities related to climate change. Exxon moved to set aside or modify the CID, arguing that it was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts, that the Attorney General should be disqualified for bias, that the CID violated Exxon’s statutory and constitutional rights, and that the case should be stayed pending a ruling on Exxon’s request for relief in federal court. A superior court denied the motion and allowed the Attorney General’s cross motion to compel Exxon to comply with the CID. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was personal jurisdiction over Exxon; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Exxon’s requests to set aside the CID, disqualify the Attorney General, and issue a stay. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Attorney General" on Justia Law
Grand Manor Condominium Ass’n v. City of Lowell
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court rendering judgment on a jury’s verdict finding that Plaintiffs’ claim for damages to Plaintiffs’ property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 5(a)(iii) was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 11A(4). Plaintiffs filed their claims against the city of Lowell for the release of hazardous materials at a condominium site. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) a plaintiff must be on notice that he or she has a claim under section 5(a)(iii) before that claim may be time barred, and such notice is separate from a plaintiff’s notice that environmental contamination has occurred; and (2) Plaintiffs in this case could not know that they had a claim under section 5 before the date the City filed its Phase II/Phase III report pursuant to the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, and therefore, the statute of limitations issues should not have been presented to the jury. View "Grand Manor Condominium Ass’n v. City of Lowell" on Justia Law
Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
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
Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
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
DaRosa v. City of New Bedford
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
A.J. Props., LLC v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
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
Pepin v. Div. of Fisheries & Wildlife
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
Franklin Office Park Realty Corp. v. Comm’r of Dep’t of Envtl. Prot.
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