U.S. Supreme Court to Address Important CERCLA Issue

On June 10, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would review a Montana Supreme Court decision that has important implications for cleanup of sites under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA).  In Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Gregory A. Christian, et al., Atlantic Richfield Co. (Arco) is seeking reversal of a Montana Supreme Court decision that allows private residents to sue Arco for cleanup costs and “restoration damages” of EPA-approved remediation that Arco is performing on the residents’ properties under CERCLA.

The cleanup relates to the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site.  Arco has spent decades and approximately $470 million remediating the site and the surrounding properties of the plaintiff residents and Arco’s cleanup has been performed pursuant to an EPA-approved cleanup plan.  The plaintiff residents are seeking for Arco to conduct further remediation and soil removal on their properties.  Arco argues that the Montana Supreme Court erred in not concluding that CERCLA preempted the plaintiffs’ state law damages claims and/or that the plaintiffs’ claims improperly seek to override EPA’s authority to determine the scope of a cleanup under CERCLA.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is expected to bring some clarity to these issues.

For more information about CERCLA issues or contaminated sites litigation, please contact Andy Thompson.