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Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Preemption of private restoration plans by CERCLA

The NAM filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Atlantic Richfield’s petition seeking review of a recent decision from the Montana Supreme Court. In the decision below, the Montana Supreme Court created a new Superfund regime in which EPA’s generally binding remediation decisions are viewed as mere suggestions, with any jury having the power to order other remediation efforts—even ones that EPA specifically considered and rejected. That approach destroys the stability the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) promises to the business community and imperils EPA’s ability to achieve CERCLA’s central purpose—the prompt cleanup of sites based on sound science. This is an important case for the future of EPA’s authority over CERCLA/Superfund cleanups, which impact many manufacturers.

Companies could face unlimited liability because the lower court’s decision would revoke the EPA’s power to enter into settlements to fix remediation obligations. That violates the purpose of CERCLA, which aims to encourage orderly, efficient cleanup of superfund sites. Reversing the Montana Supreme Court’s decision would also ensure that the CERCLA mechanism for public comment is continued in the way Congress designed, instead of allowing private parties to affect the remediation process by litigating for their preferred remediation techniques.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (May 31, 2018)


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