SCOTUS Plays Red Light, Green Light in CERCLA Decision

The Supreme Court issued a landmark CERCLA decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian. Most notably, the court held that CERCLA did not deprive Montana state courts of jurisdiction over state law trespass, nuisance, and strict liability claims brought by owners of land within a Superfund site, even where the landowners sought a cleanup that went beyond the remediation plan approved by the EPA. However, the court also held that the landowners were potentially responsible parties under CERCLA, and therefore the landowners’ remediation plan …

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There is No Full and Final Settlement Under CERCLA

The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian that state law claims are still valid against landowners who have entered into settlements with the EPA pursuant to CERCLA. In this case, Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco) had purchased the Anaconda Smelter site in Montana in 1977, where smelting had been taking place since 1884. In 1983, the site was designated as a Superfund site, and Arco worked with the EPA for approximately 35 years to remediate it. In 2008, landowners within …

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SCOTUS Ponders Limits of Federal and State Oversight of Hazardous Waste Cleanup

On December 3, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, which addresses the limits of state and federal oversight of hazardous waste cleanup.

Landowners in Montana obtained a 2017 Montana State Court win, in which the court granted them permission to seek funding for additional cleanup of hazardous waste emanating from a former anaconda site contaminated with arsenic and smelter lead in order to go beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had already directed in …

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Employing New Technology to Clean Up an Old Site

Cleanup work has resumed at a former chemical plant in central Michigan that’s become one of the country’s costliest Superfund sites. However, these efforts come with a new twist. The EPA plans to test a new method to remove soil contaminants in floodplains downstream from a former chemical plant in central Michigan with hopes that it could save millions of dollars on the costs of this ongoing cleanup.

Velsicol Chemical Corp. (formerly Michigan Chemical Corp.) produced various chemical compounds and products at the subject site …

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Up the Creek: The EPA Invites Public Comment Regarding Cleanup to NJ Superfund Site

The U.S. EPA is seeking public comment now on its proposed cleanup plan for the Berry’s Creek Study Area — a Superfund site located in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Berry’s Creek Study Area includes a 6.5 mile tributary of the Hacksensack River and about 12 miles of additional wetlands and industrial properties within the watershed. The creek originates near Teterboro Airport, runs through various sections of towns that are close to where Giants Stadium used to stand in the Meadowlands, and the fabled resting place …

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Superfund Alert: The Latest Proposed Changes to CERCLA

On February 12, 2018, President Trump’s Administration published its Infrastructure Plan (Plan) aimed at fixing America’s infrastructure. Within the Plan are several proposed changes to the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (also known as Superfund).

The first proposed change is to expand funding eligibility for revitalization projects under CERCLA. Currently, CERCLA Sections 101(39)(B) and 101(41)(C) only authorize grants or revolving loans for brownfields — properties that contain hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants that complicate expansion, redevelopment, or reuse. The Plan recommends …

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Can You Dig Half a Hole? EPA Proposes Partial Excavation at St. Louis Radioactive Landfill

In the early 1970s, a contractor for a uranium producer illegally dumped about 8,700 tons of uranium-processing waste at the West Lake Landfill in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Originally placed on the Superfund National Priorities List in 1990, the landfill is regarded as one of the most complex Superfund sites because it sits next to another landfill where an underground fire smolders. The landfill was targeted for “immediate, intense action” by the EPA Superfund Task Force in December 2017. The EPA has now recommended a …

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Hurricane Harvey’s Devastation Will Be Felt Long After Water Recedes

Hurricane Harvey has decimated the great city of Houston, displacing residents from their homes — and in many cases — destroying homes, investments, and in some scenarios, taking the life of a loved one. It will take billions of dollars to repair Harvey’s destruction, and many people will never replace what the hurricane took. Even with that, the event has more bad news. Not only did Harvey destroy property, and in some instances take human life, it also has created a toxic environmental nightmare.

Houston’s …

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