United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Environmental Law — CERCLA
An administrative settlement between the United States and a PRP does not, and cannot, automatically resolve that PRP’s liability.
“In summary, each CERCLA right of action carries with it its own statutory trigger, and each is a distinct remedy available to persons in different procedural circumstances. See Atl. Research, 551 U.S. at 139 (citing Consol. Edison Co., 423 F.3d at 99); see also Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Chevron USA, Inc., 596 F.3d 112, 122 (2d Cir. 2010). Where a person has been subjected to a civil action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 9606 or 9607(a), he may attempt to recover his expenditures through a contribution suit under 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f)(1). Where a person has resolved his liability to the United States, or to a state, for some or all of a response action or for some or all of the costs of such action in an administrative or judicially approved settlement, he may attempt to recover his expenditures in a contribution suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f)(3)(B). If neither of those triggers has occurred, a plaintiff does not have a claim for contribution under CERCLA. That does not mean he has no remedy, however. Any time a person has incurred ‘necessary costs of response . . . consistent with the national contingency plan[,]’ CERCLA provides for a § 9607(a)(4)(B) cost recovery action. These are the plain terms of the statute.”
Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Young, J., DeGuilio, J.