This tracker was launched July 15, 2022. It was last updated October 3, 2022.
The Plastics Litigation Tracker tracks cases addressing plastics across federal and state courts. It includes resolved cases and cases that are still pending. The cases can be filtered by category, plaintiff, defendant, and jurisdiction. They are listed in reverse chronological order based on the date of the latest update in each case. Where there is no decision, the cases will appear in alphabetical order. Descriptions of the categories can be found here. This blog post gives an introduction to the project and analyzes trends evident from the cases in the tracker at the time it was launched.
The tracker will be updated as cases are resolved and new cases are filed. To submit cases, updates, or corrections to this database, please email [email protected]nyu.edu.
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Colbro Ship Mgmt. Co. v. United States, No. 3:98-cv-01052 (D.P.R. 1998)
Allegations: Plaintiff, shipowner, brought an action against the United States to review a United States Coast Guard decision assessing a monetary penalty against it under the Clean Water Act. Filed 1/23/1998.
Outcome: The Court granted the Defendant motion for summary judgment, holding that the Coast Guard determination of responsibility was supported by substantial evidence and that the civil penalty was not an abuse of discretion. See the opinion here.
Soc'y of Plastics Indus. v. Cty. of Suffolk, No. 11262/1988 (N.Y. Sup Ct. 1988)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, trade organization and plastic product producer, brought an action against the County of Suffolk challenging the constitutionality of a local law banning the use of certain plastics. The association argued that the county failed to conduct an adequate environmental review under the state Environmental Quality review Act before passing the law.
Outcome: The Suffolk County Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court reversed, holding that the trade organization lacked standing to challenge the county legislature compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and that the plastic product producer failed to allege any threat of cognizable injury that it would suffer different from the public at large. See the opinion here. Effective March 1, 2020, Suffolk County Local Law No. 9-2020, requires that a 5 cent paper carryout bag reduction fee is charged on each paper carryout bag provided by a person required to collect tax to a customer in Suffolk County. The paper carryout bag reduction fee must be reflected and made payable on the sales slip, invoice, receipt, or other statement of the price rendered to the customer.
Chem. Mfrs. Ass'n v. U.S. EPA, No. 87-4849 (5th Cir. 1989)
Allegations: Petitioners, industrial and environmental organizations, brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) petitioning for review of regulations promulgated by the EPA pursuant to the Clean Water Act. Petitioners alleged substantive defects in various provisions of the Act and argued that procedural defects in the promulgation in the provisions violated the notice-and-comment requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act.
Outcome: The Court denied Petitioners' requests for review and remanded the regulations in part, holding that the regulations regarding best practicable technology and regulations establishing pre-treatment standards for existing sources were reasonable, but that the EPA arbitrarily failed to consider wastestream recycling as model technology when promulgating new source performance standards. See the opinion here. Plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing. The Court denied Petitioners request for rehearing in all respects except for remanding the limitations for priority pollutants for which in-plant biological treatment was the model technology to the EPA for further rulemaking and except for remanding an order to strike three complexed metals erroneously included in Appendix A from the Appendix, holding that it did not have jurisdiction to require the EPA to process applications for fundamentally-different-factors variances in more expeditious manner or to stay regulations pending EPA actions on variance applications.
Student Public Interest Research Group of New Jersey v. Tenneco Polymers , No. 83-2105 (D.N.J. 1985)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, citizens group, brought an action against Tenneco Polymers, Inc. seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and the imposition of civil penalties on the Defendant. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendant had 197 violations of its permit to discharge limited pollutants in the Delaware River, in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Outcome: The Court denied Defendant motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment, granted the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, granted the Plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint, and granted Defendant motion to exceed the page limitation in its reply brief. See the opinion here.
Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., No. 79-1171 (1981)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, milk sellers and plastic producers, brought an action against the state of Minnesota seeking to invalidate a Minnesota statute banning the retail sale of milk in certain plastic containers. Plaintiffs argued that the statute was invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Outcome: Minnesota Ramsey County District Court held that the Act was unconstitutional and unenforceable. On appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the ruling was affirmed. The Court reversed, finding a rational relation between the ban on plastic nonreturnable milk containers and the State objectives. See the opinion here. The Minnesota law in question was repealed in 1981 by H.F. No. 312 Sec. 2.
Am. Petroleum Inst. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 74-1465 (10th Cir. 1976)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, petroleum refineries, brought an action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging regulations promulgated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act. Plaintiffs argued that the regulations promulgated by the EPA were unreasonable.
Outcome: The Court upheld many regulations where the record showed reasonable support and remanded other regulations for reconsideration because the record failed to show support that was "sufficiently reasonable." See the opinion here.
FMC Corp. v. Train, No. 74-1386 (4th Cir. 1976)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, plastics manufacturers, brought an action against the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking review of effluent limitation guidelines adopted by the EPA pursuant to the Clean Water Act.
Outcome: The Court remanded to the agency, holding that the many intangible benefits of clean water justified vesting the Administrator with broad discretion, just short of being arbitrary or capricious, in considering the cost of pollution abatement. See the opinion here.
Nat. Res. Def. Council v. Train, No. 74-1433 (D.C. Cir. 1974)
Allegations: Plaintiff, environmental organization, brought an action against the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to compel the EPA to publish effluent limitation guidelines called for under Section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act.
Outcome: The D.C. District Court granted summary judgment to the council. On appeal, the Court reversed in part, holding that Act did not require publication of guidelines within one year after its enactment as a nondiscretionary imperative. See the opinion here.
Soc'y of Plastics Indus., Inc. v. New York, 326 N.Y.S.2d 788 (Sup. Ct. 1971)
Allegations: Plaintiffs, plastic container sellers and suppliers, brought an action against the City of New York seeking to challenge the constitutionality of a local law imposing a recycling tax upon plastic containers and not upon other similar items. Plaintiffs additionally requested injunctive relief to prevent the city from enforcing the law.
Outcome: The Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs, declaring the law unconstitutional. See the opinion here.