March 21, 2013 Articles

CERCLA vs. New Jersey's Spill Act

What's the difference and when does it matter?

By Irvin M. Freilich and Adam C. Arnold – March 21, 2013

Both the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et seq., and New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 et seq., provide a statutory basis for the government and responsible parties to compel responsible parties to remediate contaminated sites or to pay for their equitable share of response costs. Although the statutes contain different language, they have generally been viewed by litigants as alternative means to achieve the same result. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently held in NJDEP v. Dimant et al., 212 N.J. 153 (2012) that there was a clear difference between the two statutes regarding the issue of causation, and in so doing, it highlighted other significant differences between the two statutory schemes.

A review of environmental case law reveals that there are several important areas in which these statutes reach different, and sometimes conflicting, results.

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