Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

NIAGARA MOHAWK POWER v. CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORP.

May 5, 2000

NIAGARA MOHAWK POWER CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION; THE KING SERVICE, INC.; PITTSBURGH BUSINESS PROPERTIES, INC.; UNITED STATES STEEL COMPANY; EDWIN D. KING; LAWRENCE KING; RICHARD B. SLOTE; CHEVRON U.S.A., INC.; PORTEC, INC.; AND AMERICAN PREMIER UNDERWRITERS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation ("Niagara Mohawk"), commenced the instant action asserting causes of action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 9601-9675 ("CERCLA"), N.Y. Navigation Law §§ 176(8) & 181(1), as well as common law claims for joint tortfeasor liability, indemnification, unjust enrichment, and public nuisance. Niagara Mohawk seeks recovery of costs it has incurred and will incur in the future with respect to its investigation and cleanup of a contaminated site in and around Troy, New York ("Site"). Niagara Mohawk also seeks declaratory judgment as to each defendant's liability for future costs. Defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail") has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Defendant United States Steel Corporation (now known as and hereinafter referred to as "USX") has moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 56. Oral argument was heard on January 14, 2000 in Utica, New York.*fn1 Decision was reserved.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In the 1970s, several major railroads in the Northeast and Midwest became insolvent and filed for bankruptcy. In response to this perceived crisis, Congress enacted the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 ("Rail Act"), 45 U.S.C. § 701-797m, the primary purpose of which was "the reorganization of railroads in [the] region into an economically viable system capable of providing adequate and efficient rail service." § 701(b)(2). Conrail was specifically created pursuant to the Rail Act to take title to and operate certain rail properties. § 701(b)(4). Property related to the Site was transferred to Conrail effective April 1, 1976 pursuant to a court order.*fn2

The Rail Act created a special court ("Rail Act Court") which has original and exclusive jurisdiction over "any action . . . to interpret, alter, amend, modify, or implement any of the orders entered by such court . . . in order to effect the purposes of [the Rail Act] or the goals of the final system plan." § 719(e)(2). Congress abolished the Rail Act Court effective January 17, 1997; however, jurisdiction of the Rail Act Court was transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. § 719(b)(2).

A predecessor of Niagara Mohawk owned and operated the Site and engaged in the business of manufacturing gas, a byproduct of which is coal tar. In December 1992, Niagara Mohawk signed an Order on Consent with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, whereby Niagara Mohawk was required to investigate the nature and extent of coal tar contamination at the Site and develop and implement remedial action. The Site is comprised of three adjoining parcels on the east shore of the Hudson River (Areas 2, 3, and 4), and one parcel on the west shore (Area 1).

Niagara Mohawk seeks recovery under CERCLA from Conrail based upon its alleged current ownership of contaminated property within Areas 2, 3, and 4. See 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(1). Niagara Mohawk asserts that USX is liable (1) under CERCLA § 9607(a)(2) as an owner and operator of a facility where there has been disposal of contaminants; and (2) under § 9607(a)(3) as a generator of hazardous waste at the Site.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Conrail's Motion to Dismiss

Conrail asserts two reasons why Niagara Mohawk's CERCLA claim against it should be dismissed. First, Conrail claims that it cannot be held liable under CERCLA because it owns property adjacent to the Site which is separate and distinct from the property at issue here. Second, Conrail contends that even if it did own property within the Site, this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the issue of its CERCLA liability because the property in question was transferred to Conrail based upon a conveyance order issued pursuant to the Rail Act. Conrail contends that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has exclusive jurisdiction over the issue of its liability for preconveyance contamination because this issue requires interpretation of the Rail Act, the final system plan, and the conveyance order and conveyance documents. Both of these arguments is addressed in turn below.

1. Motion to Dismiss Standard

A cause of action shall not be dismissed for failure to state a claim under Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In considering a motion brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), the court must assume all of the allegations in the complaint are true. Id. In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint at the pleading stage, "[t]he issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974).

Where a motion to dismiss is made prior to any discovery or the filing of an answer, the court is loath to dismiss the complaint, regardless of whether the plaintiff is unlikely to prevail, unless the defendant can demonstrate that plaintiff is unable to prove facts which would entitle him to relief. Wade v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 693 F.2d 19, 22 (2d Cir. 1982); see also Egelston v. State Univ. College, 535 F.2d 752, 754 (2d Cir. 1976). "This caution against dismissal applies with even greater force where the complaint is pro se, or where the plaintiff complains of a civil rights ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.