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Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Consolidated Rail Corp.

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20573
Nos. No. 98-CV-1039, 97 F. Supp. 2d 454/(N.D.N.Y., 05/05/2000)

The court holds that a railroad's motion to dismiss a power company's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) cost recovery action against it for lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be denied. The court first holds that the power company's allegation as contained in the complaint states a viable CERCLA claim. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the power company's allegation that the railroad is a current owner under CERCLA is assumed to be true. The court next holds that the District Court for the District of Columbia does not have exclusive jurisdiction over the issue of the railroad's CERCLA liability. The property in question was acquired pursuant to the Regional Rail Reorganization Act. The District Court for the District of Columbia has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether CERCLA liability is proper for a railroad's preconveyance activities because such a determination requires interpretation of the Rail Act, the final system plan, and the conveyance order and conveyance documents. Here, however, the power company seeks to hold the railroad strictly liable as a current owner of contaminated property and concedes that the railroad may not be held liable as a successor-in-interest. Determining the railroad's liability as a current owner of contaminated property does not involve examination of the preconveyance activities of the railroad's predecessor and does not require interpretation of the Rail Act or conveyance documents. Therefore, the power company's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is denied. The court further holds that granting summary judgment on the issue of the liability of a steel company is premature because no formal discovery has taken place.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (5 pp., ELR Order No. L-224).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Thomas M. Downs
Swidler, Berlin, Shereff & Friedman
3000 K St. NW, Ste. 300, Washington DC 20007
(202) 424-7500

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas J. Fucillo
Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece
500 S. Salina St., Ste. 500, Syracuse NY 13202
(315) 474-7541