Cleaning Up the Muck: Clarifying the Scope of CERCLA's Potentially Responsible Parties
24 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2010 Last revised: 1 Jul 2010
Date Written: April 21, 2010
Last term, in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. United States, the Supreme Court resolved the scope of CERCLA’s arranger liability by holding that an arranger must intend to dispose, in order to be held liable as a Potentially Responsible Party (“PRP”). The case sheds light on the Supreme Court’s plain language construction of CERCLA, and its willingness to graft requirements for liability which some consider inconsistent with a strict liability statute. The Court’s decision focuses attention on other PRP disputes, specifically the extent to which a previous owner, one of the four categories of PRP, can be held liable for toxic waste disposal. While lower courts remain divided, this Comment seeks to furnish a test for when a previous owner can be held liable as a PRP, particularly in those cases where unintentional disposal occurs. Remaining true to canons of statutory interpretation, rather than privileging CERCLA’s strict liability emphasis, the breadth of liability under one of America's toughest environmental laws can finally achieve clarity.
Keywords: CERCLA, PRP, Environmental Law, Burlington Northern
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation