On April 2, 2015, the Ninth Circuit held that a district court has the discretion to determine the most equitable method of accounting for settlement between private parties when it allocates liability to a non-settling defendant in a CERCLA contribution action.  AmeriPride Serv. v. Texas Eastern Overseas, Case no. 12-17245 (9th Cir. Apr. 2, 2015).  The Ninth Circuit’s decision is consistent with previous case law from the First Circuit (Am. Cyanamid Co. v. Capuano, 381 F.3d 6, 20-21 (1st Cir. 2004)) but splits with case law from the Seventh Circuit (Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc. v. Aigner Corp., 197 F.3d 302, 308 (7th Cir. 1999)), which has held that a court must use the pro tanto approach of the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act when allocating liability to a non-settling defendant.

AmeriPride brought CERCLA § 107(a) and § 113(f) claims against Texas Eastern Overseas (TEO) related to a contaminated industrial site in Sacramento, California.  The district court granted a summary judgment motion filed by AmeriPride, holding that TEO was liable for AmeriPride’s response costs under CERCLA § 107(a) and that AmeriPride could recover amounts AmeriPride had paid in settlement to other parties from TEO under CERCLA § 113(f).  In an earlier order in the case, the court also said it would adopt the proportionate share approach of the Uniform Comparative Fault Act in allocating response costs.  
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds District Courts Have Discretion in Accounting For CERCLA Private Party Settlement When Allocating to Non-Settling Parties

The Supreme Court recently denied certiorari of a Seventh Circuit opinion permitting parties to challenge “completed” phases of a staged remediation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), even where work in subsequent stages remains ongoing.  The decision in Frey v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, No. 13-2142 (7th Cir. May 1, 2014) addressed the contours of the general statement that U.S. EPA’s decisions in an “on-going” remediation may not be challenged under CERCLA.  CERCLA Section 113(h)(4) provides that “[n]o Federal court shall have jurisdiction . . . to review any challenges to removal or remedial action” except during a limited number of actions, none of which allow a plaintiff to challenge an ongoing response action.  42 U.S.C. § 9613(h)(4).  Prior to Frey, courts applying this provision had found that parties are prohibited from reviewing ongoing clean-up activities under CERCLA.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Denies Petition Challenging Staged Review of Completed CERCLA Remediation

A recent Seventh Circuit decision addressed the contours of the general statement that USEPA’s decisions in an “on-going” remediation may not be challenged under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).  CERCLA Section 113(h)(4) provides that “[n]o Federal court shall have jurisdiction . . . to review any challenges to removal or remedial action” except during a limited number of actions, none of which allow a plaintiff to challenge an ongoing response action.  42 U.S.C. § 9613(h)(4).  Generally, courts applying this provision have found that parties are prohibited from reviewing ongoing clean-up activities under CERCLA.
Continue Reading Judicial Review of a Superfund Clean-up Can Proceed in Stages