The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Jason hired a real estate lawyer to represent him in connection with his purchase of a gasoline station. The gasoline station was in a great location, but it had been vacant for years. Jason had heard something about the site being contaminated by leaking underground tanks, but he wasn’t really sure what that meant. It had been Jason’s hope to own his own business for years and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Jason’s lawyer advised Jason that he had concerns about potential “CERCLA” liability. Jason immediately asked for a better explanation of his attorney’s concerns.
What is CERCLA?
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which can be found at 42 U.S.C.S. § 9601 et seq., imposes liability on property owners for the cleanup of environmental hazards. Notably, liability accrues under the law even where the property owner was not the cause of the contamination. What does this mean in the fact scenario set forth above? Jason may be liable for costly cleanup expenses even though he had no responsibility for the contamination.
In purchasing a piece of property, a buyer should make a thorough evaluation of any CERCLA issues. One mechanism for determining whether a property is free from contaminants is an environmental audit; however, such an audit is quite expensive.
CERCLA is a remedial statute. Thus, in interpreting the statute, courts have construed the statute liberally in order to effectuate its purpose.
Additional information may be obtained from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) . The Web site address for the EPA is www.epa.gov.