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Raritan Baykeeper, Inc. v. NL Indus., Inc.

Citation: 40 ELR 20156
No. No. 09-4117, (D.N.J., 05/26/2010)

A district court dismissed, on grounds of abstention, an environmental group's RCRA and CWA citizen suit against a company seeking remediation of contaminated sediments in the Raritan River located adjacent to a site formerly owned by the company. The complaint asks the court to enter an injunction requiring immediate remediation of the contaminated river sediments adjacent to the site. Although a split in authority exists regarding when abstention is appropriate in RCRA and CWA cases, the court found that abstention is appropriate based on the facts of this case. The agency charged with implementation of environmental protection policy in the state has technical expertise in the matter, there exists a substantial danger of inconsistent rulings if the court exercises jurisdiction over the case, and proceedings before the state agency have already begun. Accordingly, technical and policy considerations weigh in favor of the application of the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, and the matter should be referred to the state agency for resolution. In addition, given the availability of timely and adequate state-court review of the issues raised in this case, and the danger of interference with the important state policies of brownfield rehabilitation and regional remediation of river sediments, abstention under the Burford doctrine is appropriate.