Bona Fide Protection: Fulfilling CERCLA's Legislative Purpose by Applying Differing Definitions of Disposal Note
In the late 1970s, the Love Canal disaster brought toxic contamination into the American consciousness as never before. In response, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”), with the aim of cleaning up contaminated sites and making the polluters pay. Unfortunately, the draconian liability scheme imposed by CERCLA has made investors wary of redeveloping possibly contaminated industrial property. To combat this problem, Congress passed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. The Brownfields Act amends CERCLA to provide liability protection for landowners who would otherwise be liable, but who did not own the land in question at the time of disposal of hazardous substances. Liability protection hinges on whether disposal occurred during the landowner’s ownership period, but the federal courts of appeal disagree on the precise meaning of disposal. The prevailing view gives disposal an expansive meaning, consistent with CERCLA’s legislative purpose but inconsistent with the amendment meant to encourage redevelopment. In the 2007 case Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated the principle that the same word may be interpreted differently in different parts of the same statutory scheme. This Note argues that the word “disposal” should be given two different meanings under CERCLA, to respect the two different sets of Congressional concerns which shaped its passage.
Scott, Emilee Mooney, "Bona Fide Protection: Fulfilling CERCLA's Legislative Purpose by Applying Differing Definitions of Disposal Note" (2010). Connecticut Law Review. 62.