30 Years Later, CERCLA Remains a Hot Topic in the Courts

December 16, 2010
Kate Campbell
The Legal Intelligencer

On Dec. 11, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Cleanup and Liability Act, commonly known as the Superfund law, or CERCLA, turned 30. And with 30 years behind it, CERCLA remains one of the most heavily litigated statutes in the federal courts, with 2010 being a particularly busy year for Superfund practitioners. As we prepare to ring in 2011, this article looks back at some of the significant Superfund cases decided over the past year.

SECTION 107(A) and section 113(F) IN PRIVATE PARTY ACTIONS

CERCLA contains two different mechanisms for the recovery of cleanup costs: Section 107(a), which provides for joint and several cost recovery, and Section 113(f), which provides for contribution. The Supreme Court has in recent years tried to direct traffic between these two provisions, issuing two landmark decisions -- Cooper Industries v. Aviall Services Inc. (2004) and United States v. Atlantic Research Corp. (2007) -- that have in many respects redefined the nature of a private party's right of action to recover cleanup costs under CERCLA.

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