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Northern Illinois Gas Co. v. City of Evanston

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20036
Nos. 14-cv-9227, (N.D. Ill. Feb., 02/10/2016) (Lee, J.)

A district court dismissed a city's RCRA action against two power and gas companies concerning a methane gas leak from natural gas pipelines and waste oil contamination from a former manufacturing gas plant. Because methane gas does not meet the definition of "solid waste" under RCRA, the city cannot base a RCRA claim on its release. And while the waste oil does satisfy the definition, the city failed to provide the companies with adequate notice. The city's notice letter failed to apprise the companies of the endangerment posed by the waste oil. The allegations in the notice about "coal tar" emanating from a gas pipeline onto a municipal water pipeline would not have alerted the companies to the widespread release of the waste oil alleged in the complaint. Moreover, the two substances are not, in fact, the same. And even if coal tar and waste oil were to refer to the same substance and the substance is commonly known to break down into methane, the notice letter failed to connect the presence of coal tar to the increased levels of methane gas. The city's notice directed the companies' attention to certain pipelines as the source of the methane gas and did not attribute any of the methane to the coal tar. This is very different from the city's present theory that the coal tar itself was a source of the methane gas.