343 F.3d 669 (3rd Cir. 2003), 01-4259, Morton Intern., Inc. v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co.
|Citation:||343 F.3d 669|
|Party Name:||Morton Intern., Inc. v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co.|
|Case Date:||September 16, 2003|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit|
Argued on July 7, 2003.
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Samuel P. Moulthrop, Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Peretti, Morristown, Joseph S. Justice, Thomas T. Terp, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, Cincinnati, John G. Harkins, Jr. [Argued], Steven A. Reed, Harkins Cunningham, Philadelphia, Laurence S. Kirsch, Jonathan R. Stone, Frederick R. Anderson, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Washington, Gerald P. Norton, Norton, Harkins Cunningham, Washington, DC, for Appellant.
David J. D'Aloia [Argued], Robert B. Nussbaum, Michelle V. Fleishman, Saiber, Schlesinger, Satz & Goldstein, Newark, for Appellee Tenneco, Inc.
Before FUENTES, SMITH, and GREENBERG, Circuit Judges.
FUENTES, Circuit Judge.
This appeal challenges the grant of summary judgment to one defendant, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. ("Tenneco"), in an action seeking contribution toward environmental cleanup costs. These costs have been or will be incurred by plaintiff-appellant Morton International, Inc. ("Morton") in regard to the Ventron/Velsicol
Superfund Site in Wood Ridge, New Jersey (the "Site" or "plant"). Morton and three other plaintiffs, who are not parties to this appeal, sought contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 ("CERCLA"), 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq., the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act ("Spill Act"), N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 et seq., and common law.
Morton argues that Tenneco should be responsible, under the "arranged for" provision of CERCLA Section 107(a)(3), for some of the cleanup costs because it arranged for the processing of mercury at the facility for many years, resulting in the release of hazardous waste into the environment. Because we agree with Morton that material factual issues remain with respect to whether Tenneco (1) owned or possessed prime virgin mercury, (2) had knowledge of the environmental hazards of mercury processing at the plant, (3) had control over the hazardous waste disposal practices at the plant, and (4) shipped its own "dirty mercury" to the plant, we will remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The parties dispute many of the facts central to this appeal, but the following facts are undisputed. From 1929 to 1974, a mercury processing plant was operated at the Site. The plant was the largest domestic producer of intermediate inorganic mercury compounds, including red and yellow oxides of mercury ("ROM" and "YOM"). The compounds were formulated, at least in part, using prime virgin mercury ("PVM"). In addition, the plant cleaned mercury that had been contaminated ("dirty mercury") and then converted it into intermediate compounds for some of its customers. The plant released harmful waste into the environment for decades.
The plant was owned by F.W. Berk & Company from 1929 to 1960. It was transferred to Wood Ridge Chemical Corporation (its parent company is Velsicol Chemical Corporation) in 1960, and then again to Ventron Corporation in 1968. The plant was closed in 1974. Sometime thereafter, Ventron merged into Thiokol, which then merged into Morton-Thiokol, which eventually became Morton.
The parties agree that Tenneco purchased ROM and YOM from the plant from 1963 until the early 1970's. The parties disagree, however, as to the nature of the transactions between Tenneco and the plant, Tenneco's knowledge of waste disposal by the plant, and whether Tenneco shipped "dirty mercury" to the plant for processing.
B. Prior Litigation
In the 1970's, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commenced an action against Ventron, Velsicol, and other parties for cleanup and removal of mercury at the Site. Eventually, Velsicol and Morton were held strictly liable, jointly and severally, for the cleanup of the Site, and that judgment was upheld following numerous appeals and successive litigation. See Morton International, Inc. v. General Acc. Ins. Co. of America, 134 N.J. 1, 629 A.2d 831, 880 (1993) (concluding that Morton's predecessors had intentionally discharged pollutants over a long period of time); State Department of Environmental Protection v. Ventron Corp., 94 N.J. 473, 468 A.2d 150, 161-62 (1983) (finding defendants violated statute prohibiting the discharge of detrimental material into waters by intentionally permitting mercury-laden effluent to escape onto lands surrounding creek). After the enactment of CERCLA in 1980, and
the listing of the Site on the National Priorities List, Morton, as the current owner of the Site, Velsicol, and various other entities were required to perform a remedial investigation/feasibility study for the Site. Since then, Morton has been funding the environmental efforts under various judicial orders.
C. The present litigation
Morton filed this action in 1996 seeking contribution from Tenneco and numerous other defendants under CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq., the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), Pub.L. No. 94-580, § 1, 90 Stat. 2795 (1976), as amended 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq., the Spill Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 et seq., and common law. 1 Morton argues that the "conversion" or "toll" agreements, whereby the plant processed the customers' PVM into ROM and YOM, and the "dirty mercury" processing agreements render the customer-defendants subject to CERCLA liability as "arrangers" under Section 107(a)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(3). Morton is trying to recover from other...
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