Environmental Law Essay
- Joe Jones buys a home in a neighborhood bordering the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. Although it has been closed for more than ten years and is now capped by a synthetic liner and a layer of topsoil planted with grass and shrubs, the landfill continues to generate methane gas. The City of New York operates a “state-of-the art” gas collection system which collects the gas beneath the cap and burns it in generators that make electricity. After living in the home for three years, Joe Jones observes that some of his trees are dying, and he believes that the methane from the landfill is responsible. He also believes that the presence of the landfill containing decades of the City’s solid waste is depressing property values throughout Staten Island, including the value of his own home. He decides to sue the City of New York.
Using the principles discussed in Copart v. Con Ed, discuss whether Joe Jones can state a claim against the City for maintaining a public nuisance or a private nuisance with respect to his dead trees.
Using the principles discussed in Boomer v. Atlantic Cement, discuss whether he can obtain injunctive relief to compel the City to remove the waste buried in the landfill, or recover monetary damages for the lower value of his property and other properties on Staten Island.
- In the summer of 2017, Mr. Brown purchased a house on the shore of Lake George, N.Y., a community known for its pristine environment, beautiful scenery and cold winters, among other things. The house is heated by oil, which is stored in a 500 gallon above ground outdoor tank adjacent to the rear of the house. The tank is five years old and in good condition. The prior owner of the home is Ms. Black, an architect who designed and built it only five years before.
After moving in, Mr. Brown makes an agreement with a division of Exxon Corp to deliver oil to the tank on a regular schedule.
In February 2018, after several heavy snowfalls, an unusual warm spell melts and dislodges a large accumulation of ice on the roof of the house, which slides off the roof and lands on the oil tank, which is positioned beneath the eaves. The tank ruptures and spills over 450 gallons of oil into Lake George. Mr. Brown immediately reports the spill to DEC , which conducts an emergency cleanup, costing over $100,000.
DEC brings an action against Mr. Brown as a “discharger” under the Navigation Law to recover the cost of the cleanup. Under the principles articulated in White v. Long, NYS v. Green, and NYS v Speonk Fuel discuss
- the liability of Mr. Brown to New York State
- the liability of Ms. Black to Mr. Brown
- the liability of Exxon to either Mr. Brown or New York State.
- In the summer of 2016, a large quantity of fill is discovered on vacant property owned by the County of Suffolk. Through an investigation conducted by the State of New York, the fill is determined to have been delivered, without the knowledge of the County, by 10 different waste disposal firms who were to supply disposal service to 10 different property owners undertaking excavation and construction projects. Both the disposal firms and property owners knew the fill was going to be disposed of at the site.
The fill is also determined to contain hazardous substances.
The State incurred costs of $50,000 to conduct its investigation of the dumping and the testing of the fill. The State brings an action under CERCLA and common law nuisance to recover its costs, and to obtain an injunction to compel the removal of the fill from the site.
- Using the principles discussed in New York v Shore Realty and BF Goodrich v Murtha discuss the liability of the following defendants to the State and to each other:
- The County
- The Disposal Firms
- The Property Owners
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