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United States v. B.C.F. Oil Refining Inc.

January 9, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF,
v.
B.C.F. OIL REFINING INC., CARY FIELDS, AND 1.85 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, LOCATED AT 360-362 MASPETH AVE., BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, the United States Government, commenced this action by filing a complaint against defendants B.C.F. Oil Refining Inc. ("B.C.F."), Cary Fields ("Fields"), and the land located at 360-362 Maspeth Ave., Brooklyn, New York ("1.85 Acres of Land"). Pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended ("CERCLA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675, the government seeks to recover costs incurred by the United States in connection with the release, or threatened release, of hazardous substances into the environment from the B.C.F. Superfund Site (the "Site"). Presently before the Court is the plaintiff's motion for entry of final judgment against B.C.F. pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the parties' pleadings and submissions in connection with the present motion.

From 1986 until 1994, B.C.F. owned and operated a waste oil processing facility at 360-362 Maspeth Ave., Brooklyn, New York, where it treated waste oil to produce a fuel product suitable for resale to the public. B.C.F. was only authorized to accept non-hazardous waste oil containing no more than 50 parts per million of polychlorinated biphenyl compounds ("PCBs"). In April 1994, B.C.F. discovered that it had accepted waste oil which contained unacceptable levels of PCBs. B.C.F. ceased operations at the facility in 1994, but did not remove the contaminated substances from its tanks. In 2000, B.C.F. abandoned the facility, including all of the PCB contaminated waste oil in the tanks.

Due to the environmental dangers posed by these substances, the Environmental Protection Agency ("E.P.A.") performed a removal action at the site pursuant to CERCLA from May 2000 to October 2000. The E.P.A. represents that its response costs totaled at least $3.5 million as of January 31, 2005 and that it continues to incur cleanup costs in connection with the Site. On July 17, 2000, the E.P.A. filed and perfected a lien in the office of the Kings County Clerk against the property where the facility is located, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 9607(l). According to the plaintiff, this property was sold at foreclosure auction on August 4, 2005. The highest bidder closed on the purchase of this property on July 5, 2006.

On January 31, 2005, the United States filed a complaint for recovery in personam against B.C.F. (as the "owner and operator" of the facility at the Site) and Fields (as an "operator" of the facility at the Site), alleging that under Sections 107(a) of CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), the defendants were jointly and severally liable for the response costs incurred by the United States in connection with the release or threatened release of hazardous substances into the environment. The United States also filed for recovery in rem against defendant 1.85 Acres of Land, which is the property on which the Site is located, to recover costs through foreclosure of the lien of the E.P.A. against the property, pursuant to Section 107(l) of CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. § 9607(l). At the time of the filing of the complaint, B.C.F. was the owner of this land and had been the owner at all times relevant to the matter.

B.C.F. did not contest any of the allegations in the complaint, and the United States and B.C.F. agreed to a stipulation regarding B.C.F.'s liability for all unreimbursed past response costs and for future response costs which may be incurred by the E.P.A. in connection with the Site. On April 3, 2006, the United States and B.C.F. requested that I enter a Stipulation and Order of Judgment against B.C.F. On April 5, 2006, I entered a Stipulation and Order Determining Liability against B.C.F. but declined to enter a final judgment. The United States now moves for an entry of judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) ("Rule 54(b)"), to which neither B.C.F. nor Field objects.

DISCUSSION

In an action with multiple claims or multiple parties, Rule 54(b) allows a court the flexibility to direct the entry of final judgment as to one or more claims or parties prior to the resolution of all claims, upon the express determination by the court that there is no just reason for delay. Once certified under Rule 54(b), the parties to the action may seek an immediate appeal without waiting for the remaining issues in the case to be decided.

Rule 54(b) provides in relevant part that: When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment.

The rule requires that "(1) multiple claims or multiple parties must be present, (2) at least one claim, or the rights and liabilities of at least one party, must be finally decided within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and (3) the district court must make 'an express determination that there is no just reason for delay' and expressly direct the clerk to enter judgment." Ginett v. Computer Task Group, Inc., 962 F.2d 1085, 1091 (2d Cir. 1992) (emphasis in original); see also Information Resources Inc. v. The Dun and Bradstreet Corp., 294 F.3d 447, 451 (2d Cir. 2002). Each of these elements is considered below.

1. Multiplicity of Claims or Parties

The complaint in this case names three defendants, all of whom remain ...


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