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Environmental Law — CERCLA

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.

11-1501 & 11-1523 Bernstein v. Bankert

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Young, J., DeGuilio, J.

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