Supreme Court Reverses D.C. Circuit on Superfund Cost Recovery Statute of Limitations

The Supreme Court has reversed a DC Circuit decision which held that the territory of Guam was time-barred from pursuing a cost recovery action under CERCLA against the U.S. Government to pay its fair share for the clean-up of the Ordot dump.  Guam and the U.S. signed a Consent Decree under the Clean Water Act in 2004 requiring the territory to remediate the former Navy-owned Ordot dump from leaking into adjacent rivers.  Guam later filed a claim under the Federal Superfund law to recoup some of the clean-up cost.  The D.C. Circuit held that the claim was time-barred by CERCLA’s three-year statute of limitation even though the Consent Decree was issued under the Clean Water Act.  The lower Court reason that, because the contribution action could have been brought under CERCLA, its three-year statute of limitations began to run at that time.  In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed noting that the plain language of the statute indicates that the three-year statute of limitations is applicable to contribution action brought pursuant to Section 313 of CERCLA, and Congress did not intend to incorporate other causes of action under other federal statutes simply because they could have been brought under CERLA.

For more information, please contact Phillip Hoover and Andy Thompson.

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