SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Case Challenging CERCLA Authority

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday December 3, 2019, in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian. An Anaconda, Montana copper smelting plant operated for nearly 100 years and resulted in toxic levels of lead and arsenic in the region. The site was placed on the National Priorities List in 1983 and $470 million has been spent since to investigate and remediate the site. The potential landmark decision revolves around citizens demanding their properties be remediated to a standard beyond that which the EPA has ordered for the former smelting plant site. The citizen’s case is challenging the autonomy of EPA to render cleanup decisions. If they prevail, the states could demand remediation beyond the EPA Records of Decision -increasing the cost and risk associated with an already expensive process as a potentially responsible party. Courtroom reports; however, indicate that the justices’ comments and questions favor the centralized decision making by EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act. A decision is not expected for several months but EHS Support will continue to follow the developments closely and provide perspective on the final judgement and the implications the precedent of this case will provide.

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