Occupational Safety and Health
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is a well-known federal law setting forth safety standards for the workplace. OSHA cannot be used to punish an employer for an unforeseeable accident, but requires an employer to keep its workplace free of "recognized hazards" that could harm employees. Such hazards include faulty equipment and environmental hazards like spilled toxins and pollutants. An employer may be fined $7,000 for each initial violation of OSHA and up to $70,000 for each willful or repeated violation of the law.
Spill and Contamination Liability
Both state and federal environmental laws impose liability for cleanup on owners, buyers, and operators of property that has been contaminated by hazardous material, as well as on parties who generate and ship hazardous waste to someone else's property for disposal. Two of the most notable of these laws are the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA). Both of these laws are discussed in more detail below.
City of Irvine v. County of Orange
The trial court properly denied plaintiff-city's petition to set aside defendant-county's decision to approve and submit an application for state funding to expand one of defendant-county's jail facilities, where: 1) defendant-county's application did not constitute a project approval under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because it did not commit defendant-county to a definite course of action regarding the expansion of its jail facilities; and 2) the state's process did not require the defendant-county to initiate a CEQA review of its expansion plans until after defendant-county submitted its application and received conditional approval to fund the project.
Munce's Superior Petroleum Products, Inc. v. New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
A post-bankruptcy petition contempt fine assessed by a state court against a debtor-in-possession for failing to take particular actions to bring its facilities into compliance with New Hampshire environmental law, is entitled to administrative expense priority under 11 U.S.C. section 503(b)(1)(A).
Norberg v. CA Coastal Commission
The trial court's award of private attorney general fees to petitioner, following his successful action setting aside certain conditions defendant had imposed with respect to petitioner's residential permit application, is reversed, where: 1) the issuance of the peremptory writ of mandate did not confer a substantial benefit on either the general public or a large number of persons; and 2) the financial burden of the litigation was not out of proportion to petitioner's individual stake in the matter.
ORIX Capital Markets, LLC v. Cadlerocks Centennial Drive
Judgment in favor of plaintiff-lender in a dispute between defendant-borrower and a plaintiff-lender over various expenses associated with a foreclosure on a parcel of real estate following a loan default, is reversed in part as to the costs associated with environmental testing, where: 1) the cost of the tests that plaintiff-lender conducted prior to March 23, 2011, falls outside of the scope of the Indemnity Agreement because they were not liabilities "sought from or asserted against" plaintiff-lender by a third party; and 2) the Receiver's expenses related to environmental testing fall outside of the scope of the Agreement because they were not costs "required to take necessary precautions to protect against the release of any Hazardous Materials."