October 30, 2013

Environmental group sues company over waste dumped into in Allegheny River

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 28, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

An industrial treatment plant near Allegheny National Forest is dumping illegal amounts of salty, contaminant-laden wastewater from drillers into the Allegheny River in violation of state and federal laws, an environmental group charged in a federal lawsuit.

The state director of Clean Water Action said the group can’t say whether Waste Treatment Corp.’s discharges into the river in Warren include wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of getting gas from the Marcellus shale.

“From our perspective, we just don’t want it in the river,” said Myron Arnowitt, whose group asked a federal judge in the lawsuit filed Monday to order Waste Treatment to stop discharging and fix any damage done to the river.

Waste Treatment did not return a call for comment.

The company has said it does not discharge fracking water, Arnowitt said. Marcellus drillers statewide announced a voluntary effort in 2011 to stop sending fracking water to such plants.

The company has a discharge permit dating to 2003, but Arnowitt said it does not cover the types of pollutants it is discharging. The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing an application for a new permit.

“We’re concerned that DEP is delaying action,” he said. “While they’re trying to figure out what this permit should be, (the company) continues to discharge.”

A DEP spokesman said he could not comment.

The DEP in September filed notice in Commonwealth Court that it was suing Waste Treatment but did not include any specific complaints.

A DEP study last year found pollutants reduced water quality downstream of the plant to levels that can’t support aquatic life, leaving the water two- to four-times saltier than sea water, Arnowitt said. Warren is about 150 miles upriver from Pittsburgh.

Clean Water Action is suing under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.


June 11, 2013

Drillers Facing Nuisance Lawsuits

Read here about lawsuits that have been filed by families in Pennsylvania who say that gas wells nearby are a nuisance.


April 25, 2013

A Reminder About Pollution Legal Liability Coverage

Source: http://www.natlawreview.com, April 24, 2013
By: Environmental Practice Group, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

A recent decision from the federal district court in Pittsburgh highlights the importance of carrying environmental insurance, especially in connection with properties or facilities with an increased potential for environmental legacy liabilities. Many property owners believe that comprehensive general liability (CGL) policies adequately protect against environmental liabilities. However, standard CGL policies will typically only cover certain, very limited environmental liabilities and are by no means an effective tool for comprehensive environmental protection. Pollution legal liability (PLL) policies, designed to respond to contamination found on properties, are a far more useful and comprehensive mechanism to mitigate potential liability stemming from current or past ownership of environmentally sensitive properties.

Wiseman Oil v. TIG Insurance, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14747 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 22, 2013), report and recommendation adopted, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37501 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 19, 2013), involved a claim by Wiseman for coverage and for defense under Wiseman’s CGL policy for underlying claims against Wiseman under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The CERCLA claims against Wiseman arose out of environmental contamination at property formerly owned by Wiseman. TIG asserted that it owed no such defense or coverage-related duties to Wiseman. Among other arguments, TIG asserted that the CGL policy contained an exclusion for bodily injury orproperty damage claims arising out of the release of hazardous materials “into or upon land.” However, the exclusion contained an exception to releases that were considered “sudden and accidental.” “Sudden and accidental” was not defined under the policy. TIG asserted that the CERCLA claims brought against Wiseman did not allege any sudden or accidental event and thus it had no duty to defend or otherwise provide coverage.…

March 14, 2013

Engineers' building code standards target Legionella bacteria

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 9, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

An engineering group that influences building codes nationwide is drafting tough new standards to prevent Legionella, the waterborne bacteria blamed in a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Pittsburgh.

Federal estimates show Legionnaires’, a form of pneumonia, kills more than 4,000 people and sickens about 21,000 others each year, three decades after researchers figured out how to control the bacteria in tap water.

The proposed standards would require building operators to verify they are monitoring the Legionella threat in commercial, residential and medical facilities with established risk factors, such as multiple whirlpools and spas. It also outlines methods to prevent the growth of the bacteria.

The cost of implementing these standards is unknown. Single-family homes would not be included in the proposed changes.

“It’s not the science or the engineering lacking here. It’s the lack of a management system that can be applied in a practical and defensible way,” said William McCoy, Standards Committee chairman at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers in Atlanta.

McCoy’s international committee, part of the 55,000-member engineering society, worked for the past six years to craft the first unified and enforceable domestic rules for Legionella control in the plumbing of large buildings, where the bacteria can fester and grow. The proposed plan could be voted on by the society’s board this year.…

March 1, 2013

Fracking liability suits will be followed by insurance coverage disputes

Source: Business Insurance, February 24, 2013
By: Douglas McLeod

Insurance coverage disputes are bound to follow fracking liability suits, including arguments over the scope of pollution exclusions in general liability policies, lawyers say.

Along with operators extra expense policies, which cover cleanup costs from a well blowout, general liability policies also cover “sudden and accidental” pollution if discharges are discovered and reported within certain time limits — for example, discovery within 30 days and reporting to underwriters within 90 days.

Intended to exclude gradual seepage claims, such limits already have figured in what may be the first fracking-related coverage battle, a case between Ace American Insurance Co. and Warren Drilling Co. Inc. of Dexter City, Ohio, that was settled last month.

Warren alleged that it found out about drinking water contamination at a West Virginia site when it was sued by a property owner in 2010, two years after the property owner had complained to the well’s owner and operator, a unit of Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp., which had hired Warren. Ace denied coverage, saying that Warren missed the 30-day discovery/90-day reporting limits of its GL policy.

Warren paid $40,000 to settle the underlying liability claim last year after incurring $155,091 in defense and expert witness costs, according to its filings in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio.

Ace declined to comment on the terms of its settlement with Warren, and Warren officials could not be reached.

Warren is still suing EQT for indemnity under its drilling contract.


December 26, 2012

Legionnaires’ prevention under dispute

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 24, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

When the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System first revealed on Nov. 16 that it had an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that sickened four patients at its Oakland veterans hospital, it blamed a water treatment system that had been in use there since 1993.

In the last paragraph of its news release, the VA wrote: “Our existing copper-silver ionization system — which reduces the presence of Legionella in water — may not be as effective as previously thought, as is the case in other health systems using this method. Consequently, we are shifting to a chlorination system to ensure better control.”

Those 45 words reignited a debate that has raged ever since Legionella, the often-deadly bacteria that causes Legionnaires’, was first identified in 1977 after an outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia, and 30 years after Pittsburgh researchers first confirmed that it was transmitted through water systems: What is the best way to prevent the spread of Legionella?

As it so often is in scientific and commercial debate, the answer to the question depends on whom you ask.

Though the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with the Pittsburgh VA on its outbreak, has maintained for at least 15 years that chlorination is the best prevention method in water systems, there is no unanimous answer in the broader scientific or water treatment community.

There are passionate, well-researched voices on multiple sides of the debate. Some believe in copper-silver, some in chlorination, some in chlorine-dioxide, others in monochloramine. Together these four methods are the dominant prevention technology in use today, researchers and industry officials say. All rely on releasing minute amounts of the chemicals into a building’s water system to kill Legionella.…

October 29, 2012

Claims filed in asphalt spill on Pennsylvania Turnpike hit $1.7 million

Source: http://triblive.com, October 23, 2012
By: Tory N. Parrish

The value of claims filed as a result of an asphalt spill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last year has more than doubled to $1.7 million since June.

Attorney Thomas Frampton, the court-appointed special master for the case in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, has received 616 damage claims from those affected by the spill and/or their insurance carriers, he wrote in a status report released on Tuesday.

As of June 27, the date of his first status report, he had received 217 claims worth $670,000, said Frampton, who is with the law firm Goehring, Rutter & Boehm, Downtown.

As a special master, Frampton is tasked with collecting damage claims, recommending how they should be paid and presenting status reports to the court every 120 days.

None of the claims has been paid, he said.

“We don’t have the final number of claims yet, and we don’t know exactly what the pool of money is yet,” he said.

On Nov. 22, 2011, a truck owned by MTS Transport LLC of Stevensville, Md., deposited a sticky asphalt flux over a 40-mile stretch of the eastbound side of the turnpike between the New Castle and Allegheny Valley exits.

Hartford, Conn.-based Travelers Indemnity Co., which is MTS’ primary insurer, has posted the $1 million it owed under the trucking company’s primary policy, but said in court documents that the claims will exceed that amount.

MTS has an excess liability policy of $4 million with Hallmark Specialty Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Hallmark Financial Services Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas. It claimed in court that it wasn’t obligated to pay any of the claims because the spill would fall under a “pollution exclusion” clause.

Judge Joy Flowers Conti ruled in September that Hallmark would have to cover the claims, but there hasn’t been a determination of whether Hallmark will file an appeal, Frampton said.

When Travelers filed its original complaint in December, it estimated that there were about 900 damage claims. Some of those people might have decided not to pursue formal claims, Frampton said.

Travelers, Hallmark and MTS officials could not be reached for comment.