August 31, 2020

Supreme Court rejects CERCLA preemption of landowners’ state law restoration claims

by Katherine Felton and Meline MacCurdy

On April 20, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Gregory A. Christian that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) does not divest state courts of jurisdiction over claims arising under state law, even where the state law claim is based on a proposed remedy that exceeds the remedy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected under CERCLA. The Court further held, however, that innocent landowners who are nonetheless potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are barred by CERCLA section 122(e)(6) from implementing any remedial action, including a more stringent remedy, absent EPA authorization.

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