January 01, 2015

CERCLA and the Supreme Court

John M. Barkett

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), often referred to as the “Superfund” law, was adopted in December 1980 by a lame-duck Congress. The text is the product of haste and not always illuminating; to illustrate, an “owner or operator” is “any person owning or operating” a facility. Its legislative history was sparse—the Congress was rushed to get something passed before Ronald Reagan took office a month later. It is a statute that has been enhanced often by statutory interpretations accounting for CERCLA’s “remedial purpose”—at least until the Supreme Court has gotten involved.

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