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Bedford, Town of v. Raytheon Co.

ELR Citation: 21 ELR 20910
Nos. No. 89-2313-WD, 755 F. Supp. 469/32 ERC 1548/(D. Mass., 01/15/1991)

The court rules that a municipality may not bring an action for natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and that a municipality is not entitled to have the burden placed on defendants to show that its response actions are inconsistent with the National Contingency Plan. The town alleges that defendants have contaminated the aquifer that was formerly the town's principal drinking water source. The court rules that the term "state" in CERCLA §107(a)(4)(C) does not include municipalities. The definition of state in CERCLA §101(27) does not mention municipalities. Two previous district court decisions holding that municipalities may sue for natural resource damages relied on the assumption that a broad interpretation of "state" was necessary to permit municipalities to present such claims. The provisions in the 1986 CERCLA amendments that allow municipalities to seek designation of a representative to pursue natural resource damage claims on behalf of or as a natural resource trustee undermine this assumption. Further, Congress' decision to centralize the conduct of natural resource damage litigation has the policy benefit of avoiding a proliferation of inconsistent approaches by a range of different plaintiffs with counsel of variable quality. The court notes that the legislative history of the 1986 amendments are an unreliable guide to legislative intent.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Robert M. Hacking
Parker, Coulter, Daley & White
One Beacon St., Boston MA 02108
(617) 723-4500

Counsel for Defendant
William A. Zucker
Gadsby & Hannah
125 Summer St., Boston MA 02110
(617) 345-7000