Seventh Circuit Review


The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) is Congress' vehicle for both encouraging timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and placing the costs of cleanup on those responsible for creating or maintaining the hazardous condition. Most courts have utilized the “remedial canon” of statutory construction to broadly construe the former goal of CERCLA to the detriment of the latter. In contrast, the Seventh Circuit employs the “public interest” theory instead of the “remedial canon” of statutory interpretation, and strikes a perfect balance between the two competing goals of CERCLA.

Some courts apply “strict liability” in the context of § 107(a) recovery for a Potentially Responsible Party (“PRP”) who has voluntarily commenced environmental cleanup. The Seventh Circuit, in Metropolitan Water Reclamation of Greater Chicago v. North American Galvanizing & Coating, Inc., refused and allowed a PRP who had voluntarily commenced environmental cleanup to bring a cause of action against another PRP. This case illustrates how the Seventh Circuit closed a gaping hole in PRP recovery within CERCLA’s cost-shifting litigation scheme. As such, the Seventh Circuit continues to expand the rights of all environmentally aggrieved parties.

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