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Wagner Seed Co. v. Bush

ELR Citation: 19 ELR 20950
Nos. No. 88-1922, 709 F. Supp. 249/29 ERC 1453/(D.D.C., 04/04/1989)

The Court holds that Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) §106(b)(2), permitting Superfund reimbursement for companies ordered to clean up environmental damage for which they are not liable, does not apply if cleanup was already underway when §106(b)(2) was added in 1986. The court first holds that as a waiver of sovereign immunity permitting courts to order expenditures from the Superfund, §106(b)(2) should be construed narrowly and in favor of the government. The court observes that under other circumstances Congress has specified in CERCLA when reimbursement for past expenses may be made. The court next holds that statutes affecting substantive rights should not be presumed to apply retroactively. However, the court acknowledges that reimbursing plaintiff's cleanup costs would not necessarily be a retroactive application because plaintiff could not petition for reimbursement until the cleanup had been completed. finally, courts must defer to an administering agency's reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute, and the court holds that the Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of CERCLA §106(b)(2) is reasonable.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Frank L. Amoroso, Rhonda S. Kahan
Rivkin, Radler, Dunne & Bayh
100 Garden City Plaza, Garden City NY 11530
(516) 746-7500

Counsel for Defendants
Letitia J. Grishaw
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2000

Joseph Freedman
Office of General Counsel
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M St. SW, Washington DC 20460
(202) 382-7703