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New York, City of v. Exxon Corp.

Citation: 19 ELR 20332
No. No. 85 Civ. 1939 (EW), 697 F. Supp. 677/(S.D.N.Y., 09/29/1988) Proposed settlement approved in part

The court upholds, for the most part, a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) proposed settlement between New York City and several contributors to five city landfills. The settlement was challenged by two nonsettling contributors. The court first holds that whether CERCLA § 113(f)(2), protecting settling parties from contribution claims from nonsettling parties, applies in this case is currently ripe for review. Deciding now that § 113(f)(2) applies would guarantee settling parties that they will not be dragged back into the case later, and would immediately confront nonsettling parties with the prospect of covering any shortfall that develops between the settlement reached and the ultimate share of the settling parties. The court next holds that municipalities are "states" for purposes of bringing suit under CERCLA § 107(a)(4)(A) and entering into settlements under § 113(f)(2). CERCLA § 101(27) defines "state" with the introductory verb that it includes the 50 states and other specified governments such as the District of Columbia, and this contrasts with other CERCLA definitions that define terms with the introductory verb mean. Thus, CERCLA's definition of "state" invites inclusion of entities not specifically listed. CERCLA divides duties among levels of governments, and though in some sections they arespecifically granted rights and in others they are omitted, political subdivisions of states are not relegated to the status of private parties. Interpreting §§ 107(a)(4)(A) and 113(f)(2) to include political subdivisions is consistent with CERCLA's remedial purposes by encouraging early and complete settlement. CERCLA's legislative history is unreliable in general, and on this issue in particular it offers no persuasive guidance. Moreover, in this case the state government has participated in reaching the settlement and in effect has approved New York City's role in the litigation; to fail to apply § 113(f)(2) would be unduly formalistic.