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Private Party May Sue Government for Its Contribution to Site Contamination
Description Supreme Court held that where the government contributed to the pollution of soil and ground water that required cleaning, the government could be sued for contribution to the clean up expenses.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words CERCLA; Superfund; Liability; Expenses; Potentially Responsible Parties
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Atlantic Research leased property at a government site where it retrofitted rocket motors for the government. The wastewater from the retrofitting process contaminated the soil and groundwater. Atlantic cleaned the site at its expense and then sued the government to recover some of the cost. The appeals court held for Atlantic. The government appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) allows private parties to recover expenses associated with cleaning up contaminated sites. Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are liable for all costs associated with removal of contamination and remedial action. PRPs may sue each other for contribution. The government is a PRP for the environmental damage done at this site, so Atlantic has the right to sue for contribution-a proportionate share based on percentage of fault.
Citation U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corporation, 127 S.Ct. 2331 (Sup. Ct., 2007)

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