The many overlaps and disjunctions in environmental protection laws mean that many situations are potentially subject to multiple laws and their associated enforcement provisions. On May 24, the US Supreme Court decided the latest incarnation in a long-running dispute between the federal government and the territory of Guam over contamination at a landfill, which included an earlier round involving the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the latest round involving the Superfund law (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)) (Guam v. United States). The court decided that a 2004 settlement in a CWA enforcement case did not – and could not – affect Guam’s latest search for financial contributions to cleanup under CERCLA. This decision provides not just specific clarification of the relationship between two CWA and CERCLA cost recovery provisions, but also a general reminder about the need to craft settlements carefully.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
Forty years ago, the federal “Superfund” law -- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) – was enacted to provide legal requirements and procedural methodologies to speed identification and cleanup of contamination. Today, cleanups continue and the requirements and procedures continue to evolve. In April, the United States Supreme Court issued its latest decision interpreting a Superfund provision, this one defining clearer limitations on when the owners of contaminated land can force Responsible Parties for that contamination to pay for cleanup more extensive (and expensive) than cleanup ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case is Atlantic Richfield Company v. Christian.Read More
On April 23, a six-member majority of the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that narrows the uncertainty about when a discharge of water pollutants to groundwater may require a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit (County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund). The decision directly vacates the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision it reviews, and effectively over-rules decisions by the Fourth and Sixth Circuits that differed with the Ninth Circuit but are also inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s new analysis. It also overturns guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019 categorically excluding discharges from point sources to groundwater from regulation under the CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program; EPA's policy applied nationwide except in those three judicial circuits.Read More