Equipment Lessor Deemed An "Owner" Under CERCLA: Liable For Remediation Costs
By James A. Vroman and Genevieve J. Essig
A recent decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has provided a new perspective on who could be held liable for a release of hazardous substances as an “owner” under CERCLA. See United States v. Saporito, No. 07-C-3169 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2010). In a February 9, 2010 decision, the Honorable Rebecca R. Pallmeyer found an owner of equipment leased for use in an electroplating operation to be a “current owner” within the meaning of CERCLA, which resulted in his being liable for the $1.5 million U.S. EPA had expended to remove hazardous liquids and sludge from the former site of the electroplating business.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Allows Complaint By Mossville, LA Residents
By E. Lynn Grayson
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled in favor of admitting a human rights complaint on behalf of Mossville, LA residents. The decision marks the first time, according to Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, that the Commission has taken jurisdication over an environmental racism case in the U.S.
The Commission is an entity of the Organization of American States (OAS) of which the U.S. is a member. Mossville is an historic African-American community in southwest Louisiana that is surrounded by fourteen industrial facilities.
More information about this case and related environmental claims is available at http://www.ehumanrights.org/
January 2010 Update: Environmental Lender Liability
By Gabrielle Sigel and Genevieve Essig
CERCLA Case Law Developments
District Court Finds Non-Settling PRP Can Intervene in CERCLA Consent Decree
On January 15, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia held that a PRP’s right to contribution under CERCLA is a significantly protectable interest permitting a non-settling PRP to intervene as of right to challenge a consent decree between the federal government and a settling PRP. United States v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. 08-124 (N.D. W. Va. Jan. 15, 2010). In Exxon, U.S. EPA identified Vertellus Specialties, Inc. (“Vertellus”) and CBS Corporation (“CBS”) as PRPs for contamination at Big John’s Salvage Site (“BJS Site”), a former industrial site in Marion County, West Virginia, the remediation of which could cost more than $24 million. Exxon, previously identified by EPA as a PRP due to its predecessor’s coke production activities nearby, had agreed to a consent decree under which it would pay the government $3 million in exchange for relief from liability for pollution at the BJS site and protection from contribution claims by other PRPs; Vertellus and CBS asserted that the decree unreasonably underestimates Exxon’s liability and sought intervention under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) and CERCLA § 113(i). Overruling EPA’s objections, the court granted Vertellus’s and CBS’s motions to intervene “for the limited purpose of challenging the proposed consent decree.” Exxon, No. 08-124, slip op. at 20.