February 2010 Update: Environmental Lender Liability
By Gabrielle Sigel and Genevieve Essig
CERCLA Case Law Developments
District Court Finds Owner of Leased Equipment Liable Under CERCLA
On February 9, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that an owner of equipment leased for use in an electroplating operation is a PRP under CERCLA as a “facility owner at the time [of cleanup].” United States v. Saporito, No. 07-C-3169, slip op. at 15 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2010). In Saporito, the federal government sought to recover $1.5 million it spent to clean up hazardous substances affecting soil and groundwater at the former Crescent Plating Works site on the northwest side of Chicago from defendant individuals James Saporito and Paul Carr. During the electroplating process, items to be plated were dipped into a series of chemical baths through which an electrical current was run, and hazardous materials contained in the baths, such as sodium cyanide, hexavalent chromium, and TCE, at times splashed onto the concrete floor, ultimately reaching the soil below. Saporito, whose dealings with Crescent Plating included his purchasing and leasing back to Crescent Plating equipment used in the electroplating process, filed a number of counterclaims against the government and moved for summary judgment on his liability. The government moved for summary judgment on its claims that Saporito was both an owner and an operator liable under CERCLA, and moved to dismiss Saporito’s counterclaims, both of which the court granted.