Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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Reichmann Land and Cattle, LLP managed a winter feeding facility. In 2011, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued an administrative order requiring Reichmann to obtain national-pollutant-discharge-elimination-system (NPDES) and state-disposal-system (SDS) permits or discontinue the winter feeding operation. Reichmann requested a contested case hearing. An administrative law judge (ALJ) concluded that Reichmann’s winter feeding fields constituted a “concentrated animal feeding operation” and were not “pastures.” Therefore, Reichmann was required to apply for an NPDES/SDS permit. The Commissioner of the MPCA adopted the findings and conclusions of the ALJ. The court of appeals affirmed the Commissioner’s conclusion that Reichmann must apply for an SDS permit but reversed the Commission’s requirement that Reichmann must apply for an NPDES permit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Reichmann need not obtain an NPDES permit because its winter feeding facility is not an animal feeding operation as required by 40 C.F.R. 122.23(b)(1); and (2) Reichmann is required to obtain an SDS permit because it does not qualify for the pasture exemption. View "In re Reichmann Land & Cattle, LLP" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the State retained Covington & Burling, LLP (“Covington”) to represent it in a natural resource damages case against 3M Company (“3M”) involving the manufacture and disposal of perfluorochemicals, which are a subset of all fluorochemicals. In 2012, 3M moved to disqualify Covington as counsel for the State because Covington had previously represented 3M in legal and regulatory matters related to 3M’s fluorochemicals business from 1992 to 2006. The district court granted 3M’s disqualification motion. Both the State and Covington appealed. The court of appeals dismissed Covington’s appeal for lack of standing and affirmed the disqualification of Covington. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding (1) an attorney has standing to appeal when a district court finds that the attorney violated the rules of professional conduct and disqualifies the attorney from the representation, and therefore, Covington had standing to appeal the disqualification order; (2) the district failed to use the proper legal standard in disqualifying Covington under Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9(a); and (3) remand was required to permit the district court to make the necessary factual findings and determine whether 3M waived the right to seek disqualification of Covington. View "State v. 3M Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants hired Respondent as the general contractor to build a seasonal residence on Appellant's property. Respondent purchased a general liability insurance policy from Midwest Family Mutual Insurance Company that included an absolute pollution exclusion. Respondent later purchased a boiler for Appellant's home that bore a label warning that the boiler was designed to run on natural gas only. Respondent connected the boiler to a liquid propane line. Appellants were later transported to hospital due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the boiler. Appellants brought litigation against Respondent. Midwest initiated a declaratory judgment action, requesting that the district court find Midwest had no duty to defend or indemnify Respondent because coverage was barred under the absolute pollution exclusion. The district court denied Midwest's motion for summary judgment, concluding that it would be inappropriate to rule as a matter of law that the absolute pollution exclusion barred coverage under the facts in this case since Respondent did not cause any environmental pollution. The court of appeals reversed, holding that carbon monoxide constitutes a pollutant in the Midwest policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that carbon monoxide released from a negligently installed boiler is clearly a "pollutant" that is subject to the absolute pollution exclusion of the Midwest policy. View "Midwest Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wolters" on Justia Law