Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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A stormwater pipe ruptured beneath a coal ash pond at Duke Energy Corporation’s Dan River Steam Station in North Carolina. The spill sent a slurry of coal ash and wastewater into the Dan River, fouling the river for many miles downstream. In May 2015, Duke Energy pled guilty to nine misdemeanor criminal violations of the Federal Clean Water Act and paid a fine exceeding $100 million. The plaintiffs, stockholders of Duke Energy, filed a derivative suit in the Court of Chancery against certain of Duke Energy’s directors and officers, seeking to hold the directors personally liable for the damages the Company suffered from the spill. The directors moved to dismiss the derivative complaint, claiming the plaintiffs were required under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1 to make a demand on the board of directors before instituting litigation. Plaintiffs responded that demand was futile because the board’s mismanagement of the Company’s environmental concerns rose to the level of a "Caremark" violation, which posed a substantial risk of the directors’ personal liability for damages caused by the spill and enforcement action. The Court of Chancery disagreed and dismissed the derivative complaint. The Delaware Supreme Court concurred with the Court of Chancery that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege that the directors faced a substantial likelihood of personal liability for a Caremark violation. Instead, the directors at most faced the risk of an exculpated breach of the duty of care. Thus, the stockholders were required to make a demand on the board to consider the claims before filing suit. View "City of Birmingham Retirement & Relief System v. Good, et al." on Justia Law

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At the heart of this appeal was a coverage dispute between a chemical company and a group of insurers over whether the insurers had to compensate the company for expenses and fines associated with environmental claims against the company in Ohio and Arkansas. The policies in question were part of a comprehensive insurance program that covered the chemical company‘s operations around the world. The chemical company and the insurers disputed what law applied to their contract law dispute regarding the application of the insurance policy. The Superior Court held that the insurance policy was not, in fact, to be interpreted by a consistent law, but instead that the underlying contract law of the states where the environmental claims arose would govern on a claim-by-claim basis. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the insurer that the Superior Court erred in its application of the relevant choice-of-law principles, and, instead, applied a consistent choice of law principle. New York was the principal place of business for the chemical company‘s predecessors at the beginning of the coverage, and there were a number of contacts with New York over time after the beginning of the coverage, the most significant relationship among the parties for these contracts was New York. Thus, New York law should have been applied to resolve this contract dispute. The Superior Court was therefore reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, et al. v. Chemtura Cororporation" on Justia Law

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A private company applied to build a wastewater treatment facility that would occupy many acres within the area protected by the Coastal Zone Act (CZA). The application proceeded through multiple layers of review, and came before the Supreme Court to decide where this facility fit within the CZA’s classification scheme, how to enforce the regulations governing “offsets” when the facility constitutes its own offset and the permit contains conditions, and the legal status of an order from the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board that a majority of members agreed to, but less than a majority signed. The Court remanded the case to the Board, with instructions that the facility at issue is neither a “heavy industry” use nor a “manufacturing” use, and that the Board should take care to follow the statutory requirement that all members of a quorum of a Board sign any order on which they voted. View "Sierra Club Citizens Coalition Inc. v. Tidewater Environmental Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sussex County filed a complaint against DNREC asserting that it exceeded its constitutional and statutory authority in promulgating the PCS Regulations, which were promulgated in 2008 to effect DNREC's Pollution Control Strategy for the Inland Bays Watershed. At issue was the validity of Sections 4 and 5 of the PCS Regulations. The Superior Court held that Section 4, which established the water quality buffer, and the related stormwater control provisions of Section 5, constituted "zoning," and thus directly conflicted with the Sussex County Zoning Ordinance. The Superior Court held those portions of the PCS Regulations were void and ordered that they be stricken. The court concluded that DNREC's "no zoning" argument was contradicted by language in those portions of the PCS Regulations that were at issue. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court was affirmed. View "DE Dept. of Natural Resources & Environmental Control v. Sussex County, et. al." on Justia Law