The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bongiovanni, Magistrate Judge,
Presently before the Court is Defendant Pechiney Plastics Packaging, Inc.'s ("PPPI") motion for reconsideration of the Court's Letter Order of March 12, 2012 [Docket Entry No. 42], which granted in part and denied in part PPPI's request for certain discovery. Plaintiff United States of America (the "United States") opposes PPPI's motion for reconsideration. Also, to the extent the Court grants PPPI's motion and reconsiders Its earlier decision, the United States opposes PPPI's request for additional discovery. The Court has reviewed all arguments raised in support of and in opposition to PPPI's motion for reconsideration, including all arguments made with respect to the discovery sought by PPPI. The Court considers PPPI's motion without oral argument pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 78. For the reasons stated more fully below, PPPI's motion for reconsideration is DENIED.
On November 6, 2009, the United States brought this civil action against PPPI pursuant to Sections 107 and 113(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended ("CERCLA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9607 and 9613(b). Through this lawsuit, the United States seeks to recover certain costs incurred or to be incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the "EPA") in connection with the release or threatened release of hazardous substances into the environment at or from the Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site (the "Pohatcong Site"). The Pohatcong Site is comprised of approximately ten square miles and is located in Warren County, New Jersey. The United States seeks to recoup approximately $22 million in costs for work done in relation to the Pohatcong Site and its cost claims extend for a time span of approximately 26 years.
During the course of this litigation, a discovery dispute arose over PPPI's request for discovery from CH2M Hill, the EPA's primary contractor. While the parties had reached an interim agreement concerning the production of CH2M Hill discovery in early 2011 under which the United States agreed to produce the files from certain CH2M Hill offices and servers, as well as certain hard copy files for PPPI to copy at other CH2M Hill offices along with the files of six priority CH2M Hill employees, the agreement did not foreclose PPPI's right to seek additional CH2M Hill discovery from the United States or directly from CH2M Hill. The agreement also did not foreclose the United States' right to object to any additional discovery requested by PPPI. After receiving the United States' interim production of discovery from CH2M Hill, PPPI exercised its right to seek additional information from CH2M Hill and the United States exercised its right to object to same.
The parties raised their inability to agree on the appropriate scope of CH2M Hill discovery to the Court in their status letters submitted on January 13, 2012 in advance of the telephone conference scheduled for January 20, 2012. (See Letter from Barbara Magel to Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 1/13/2012; Letter from Keith Tashima to Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 1/13/2012). On January 19, 2012, the day before the parties' scheduled status conference, the Court received an additional letter from PPPI, narrowing the scope of the additional CH2M Hill discovery it was currently seeking to nine employees' files and explaining why this discovery was relevant to its affirmative defenses: inconsistency with the National Contingency Plan (the "NCP"), statute of limitations and divisibility/apportionment. (See Letter from Barbara Magel to Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 1/19/2012).
On January 20, 2012, the Court conducted a status telephone conference with the parties. During the conference, the Court discussed PPPI's request for additional CH2M Hill discovery and took that request under advisement. While the Court did not foreclose the possibility that It would require formal motion practice on this issue, the Court also left open the possibility that It would rely on the parties' informal letter applications to determine whether additional CH2M Hill discovery was warranted. Subsequent to the January 20, 2012 telephone conference, the Court permitted the parties to submit additional letter briefs on the CH2M Hill discovery issue. The parties submitted same on January 27, 2012. (See Letter from Barbara Magel to Hon. Tonainne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 1/27/2012; Letter from Myriah Jaworski to Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 1/27/2012).
After reviewing all of the parties' letters on the issue,*fn1
the Court entered a Letter Order on March 12, 2012 [Docket
Entry No. 42], granting in part and denying in part PPPI's request for
additional CH2M Hill discovery. Specifically, the Court required the
United States to produce the files of D. Zmudzin, but denied PPPI's
request for any additional CH2M Hill discovery. In reaching this
conclusion, the Court determined that PPPI had failed to establish
that the requested discovery was relevant to either its defense that
some of the United States' claimed costs are inconsistent with the NCP
or its statute of limitations defense. (See 3/12/2012 Letter Order at
4-6). The Court further determined that while it was reasonable to
presume that eight of the nine employee files requested by PPPI likely
contained information at least somewhat relevant to the issue of
apportionment, with one exception, the burden and expense associated
with the production of those files was significantly outweighed by the
likely benefit of same. (Id. at 10-11); the exception being D.
Zmudzin's files, which as already noted above, the Court required the
United States to produce.
On March 19, 2012, PPPI submitted a letter to the Court, purportedly in accordance with L.Civ.R. 7.1, through which it sought reconsideration of the Court's March 12, 2012 Letter Order. PPPI's basis for seeking reconsideration was that PPPI did not believe that the Court would treat its letters of January 13, 2012 and January 19, 2012 "as if they were a complete briefing or presentation of PPPI's needs for the remaining production[,]" rather it was PPPI's understanding that it was "awaiting further instruction as to whether the Court wanted more formal filings (as requested by the United States through its protective order approach) or an in person conference." (Letter from Barbara Magel to Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J. of 3/19/2012 at 1). In short, PPPI argued that reconsideration is appropriate because it "did not anticipate a ruling based on our letters which simply provided examples to demonstrate the relevancy of the documents sought, rather than a fully briefed position statement." (Id.)
After receiving PPPI's March 19, 2012 letter, the Court immediately entered a Letter Order, which in its entirety read:
The Court has received Defendant Pechiney Plastics Packaging, Inc.'s ("PPPI's") letter dated today, March 19, 2012, regarding the Court's March 12, 2012 Letter Order. To the extent any party seeks reconsideration of all or part of the March 12, 2012 Letter Order, that party has until March 26, 2012 to file a formal motion pursuant to L.Civ.R. 7.1(i) seeking same. (March 19, 2012 Letter Order; Docket Entry No. 43). PPPI's instant motion for reconsideration followed.
In this district, motions for reconsideration are governed by L.Civ.R. 7.1(i) and are considered "extremely limited procedural vehicle(s)." Resorts Int'l v. Greate Bay Hotel & Casino, 830 F.Supp. 826, 831 (D.N.J. 1992). As a result, "reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy, that is granted 'very sparingly[.]'" Brackett v. Ashcroft, No. Civ. 03-3988 (WJM), 2003 WL 22303078, *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 7, 2003) (quoting Interfaith Community Org. v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 215 F.Supp.2d 482, 507 (D.N.J. 2002). As such, a party seeking reconsideration bears a high burden and must demonstrate one of the following three grounds to establish that reconsideration is appropriate: "(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not ...