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Phillips Nizer Press Release

July 18, 2003

Vikki Grodner
(212) 841-0703

Phillips Nizer Partner Martin B. Wasser Negotiates
Mattiace Superfund Site Settlement

Martin Wasser, head of Phillips Nizer’s Environmental Law Practice Group, was recently involved in formulating a unique settlement to fund the clean-up of a Superfund site in Glen Cove, Long Island.  The settlement, approved by United States District Judge Joanna Seibert on June 16, 2003, provides for implementation of a $15 million remedy at property previously used by the Mattiace Petrochemical Company.  Eighty-four parties, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Exxon Mobil, and United Airlines and American Airlines, participated in this novel approach.

Under the agreement, EPA accepted the use of environmental insurance to support the transfer of clean-up responsibility to a third-party contractor, an approach which both governmental and private parties hailed as a model for future settlements.  Each of the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at the site transferred its responsibility for cleaning up the property to TRC Companies, Inc., who was added as a signatory to the consent decree.  The agreement requires the PRPs to purchase environmental insurance to cover potential cost overruns and provide financial assurance that sufficient monies will be available to TRC to remedy the site.

This creative approach offers a tremendous benefit for parties in such Superfund cases.  By making a one-time payment to a dedicated fund, each PRP effectively is being allowed to “cash-out” by designating TRC as the party who will be responsible for the clean-up on an on-going basis.  Similar to other Superfund buy-out arrangements, the PRPs were able to resolve their liability in this case while minimizing their continuing obligation to complete the remedy.

According to agency and industry sources, this is the first agreement of this type at a Superfund site, and should serve as a model for future settlements.  “The Mattiace site shows that this approach can work at sites with certain specific factors,” an EPA source indicated, noting that this template is especially well suited to sites in the latter stages of clean-up where operation and maintenance costs are the primary concerns. 

Martin B. Wasser graduated from Yale University, summa cum laude, in 1970 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1973.  He holds an honors degree in historical studies from Trinity College, Cambridge University.  Prior to joining the law firm in 1977, Mr. Wasser was law clerk to Justice Robert C. Williams of the New York State Supreme Court.  Between 1975 and 1977, he served as Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  Mr. Wasser has been involved in a national and international practice encompassing all aspects of environmental counseling and regulatory enforcement.  His diversified practice has included enforcement litigation and appellate practice involving the Love Canal, Hyde Park and S-Area landfills in Niagara Falls, New York and permitting and litigation regarding the New York City-owned Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, New York.  He has lectured and written extensively in this field and was for many years on the board of editors of the Environmental Compliance & Litigation Strategy newsletter. 

Phillips Nizer LLP has been engaged in a wide-ranging practice of domestic and international law for over 75 years.  Established by world-renowned trial attorney Louis Nizer, the firm today consists of almost 80 lawyers, well-respected and recognized in their fields.  The firm’s principal office is in New York City, with additional offices in Garden City, New York and Hackensack, New Jersey.