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Wagner Seed Co. v. Bush

ELR Citation: 22 ELR 20001
Nos. No. 89-5139, 946 F.2d 918/33 ERC 1897/(D.C. Cir., 10/15/1991) Aff'd

The court upholds the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) interpretation of §106(b)(2)(A) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as entitling a party to reimbursement from EPA for cleanup costs for which the party was not liable if the party incurred those costs pursuant to a cleanup order received prior to the enactment of §106(b)(2)(A) on October 17, 1986. EPA ordered a corporation to remove hazardous substances that were released when a fire caused by lightning destroyed the corporation's warehouse. Congress enacted §106(b)(2)(A) after the corporation had substantially completed cleanup. The court first holds that its review of EPA's statutory interpretation is governed by the deferential standard adopted by the Supreme Court in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 14 ELR 20507, since CERCLA §106 vests initial authority in the president, who delegated that authority to EPA. Applying that standard, the court holds that EPA's interpretation is entitled to deference because the statutory language and the legislative history do not indicate a specific congressional intent and EPA's interpretation is reasonable. The court holds that EPA's interpretation is consistent with Congress' objective of providing an incentive for potentially nonliable parties to begin a cleanup, and it deals in a reasonable way with anyone who received a cleanup order before Congress made provision for reimbursement.

A dissenting judge would hold that CERCLA §106(b)(2)(A) grants a party the right to petition EPA for reimbursement of cleanup even if the party received a cleanup order prior to the enactment of that section. The dissenting judge would hold that EPA's interpretation of CERCLA §106(b)(2)(A) is not entitled to deference, because Congress gave the administration of that section to the courts, not to the president or his delegee. Further, the text of the statute favors active application.

The district court's decision is published at 19 ELR 20950.]

Counsel for Appellant
Albert Shuldiner, Neal J. Cabral
Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle
1 Thomas Cir., Ste. 800, Washington DC 20005
(202) 223-7200

Counsel for Appellees
Letitia J. Grishaw, J. Carol Williams, Angus E. Crane
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: BUCKLEY, WILLIAMS, and D.H. GINSBURG, Circuit Judges.