Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to issue a decision in a Superfund cost recovery case which could provide clarity on whether non-Superfund settlements can start the clock on Superfund’s contribution claims’ statute of limitation.  In the underlying case, the U.S. struck a deal with Guam under the Clean Water Act in 2004 requiring the territory to stop waste in the formerly Navy owned ORDOT Dump from leaching into adjacent rivers.  Guam ended up with remediation costs of $160,000,000 for the clean-up of the dump, but waited too long to try to recover those costs from the U.S. Government, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit said.  On its face, the Superfund statute of limitations appears to apply only to agreements reached under the authority of Superfund, but because of the DC Appeals Court ruling, it could affect agreements under other statutes as well.  If the Supreme Court upholds the appeals court ruling, parties who settle claims under any environmental statute may need to investigate if they have any rights to contribution under Superfund, and to initiate those claims within the applicable statute of limitation.

 

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