Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required that owners of underground storage tanks demonstrate their ability to pay cleanup costs and compensate third parties for bodily injury and property damage arising out of releases of petroleum products from their tanks. New Hampshire’s Oil Discharge and Disposal Cleanup Fund (ODD Fund) was an EPA-approved program that complied with the federal requirement. In 2003, the State sued several gasoline suppliers, refiners, and chemical manufacturers seeking damages for groundwater contamination allegedly caused by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). In 2012, petitioners sought a declaratory judgment and equitable relief against the State. Each petitioner was a “distributor” of oil under RSA chapter 146-D and paid fees into the ODD Fund. They alleged that “[t]o date, the costs of MTBE remediation in the State of New Hampshire has been paid for primarily through” the ODD Fund, and that that fund was financed, in part, through fees that they paid. Petitioners sought a declaration that those fees “are unconstitutional as the [State] has recovered and/or will recover funds from the MTBE Lawsuit for the cost of MTBE remediation,” and that those fees should be reimbursed to them from: (1) “the settlement proceeds the [State] has received and will receive through the MTBE Litigation”; (2) “any future recovery the [State] receives through the MTBE Litigation”; and (3) “[a]dditionally, or in the alternative, . . . from the funds recovered, and/or to be recovered in the future in the MTBE Litigation, . . . under principles of equitable subrogation and/or unjust enrichment.” On appeal, the petitioners argue that the trial court erred in ruling that they lacked standing to seek reimbursement of their fees from the settlement funds. They also argued that the trial court erred in ruling that their equitable claims are barred by sovereign immunity. Find View "Aranosian Oil Co., Inc. v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Respondent City of Concord appealed a superior court order that denied it summary judgment in favor of Petitioner EnergyNorth National Gas (d/b/a National Grid NH, or "National Grid"). The City argued that the trial court erroneously determined that RSA 231:185 (2009) and RSA 236:11 (2009) preempted the City's ordinance authorizing it to charge certain roadway fees. The issue between the parties arose from National Grid's desire to excavate certain streets to install, maintain or replace its underground pipes that delivered natural gas. The fees covered damage for damages arising from the excavation. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that granting summary judgment in favor of National Grid was in error. The City argued that its roadway fees are consistent with the pertinent statutes because they "cover[ ] maintenance costs to repair the roadway after it has been initially patched, which [are] used to restore the excavated roadway to the condition that existed prior to the excavation." The Court was not persuaded that when the legislature enacted the statutes at issue, it made any assumption or finding, implied or otherwise, as to whether repaving a paved excavated roadway restored the roadway's original life expectancy. The Court was thus left with a factual dispute whether patching an excavated roadway with new pavement diminished or restored its original life expectancy. Because of that "genuine issue of material fact," the Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "EnergyNorth Natural Gas, Inc. v. City of Concord" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Town of Seabrook appealed an order of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) which granted Respondent NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC (NextEra), several tax exemptions under RSA 72:12-a (Supp. 2011). Upon review of the record, the Supreme Court found that the record supported DES' decisions except for one: the Court found no evidence in the record to support an increase in a percentage allocation allowed under the statute. Accordingly, the Court partly affirmed, partly reversed the DES' decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Town of Seabrook " on Justia Law