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United States v. Serafini

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20342
Nos. No. 3:CV-86-1591, 898 F. Supp. 287/40 ERC 1368/(M.D. Pa., 12/07/1994) vacating orders granting government oversight costs

The court holds that the U.S. government may not recover, as either removal or remedial costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), oversight costs it incurred in monitoring private-party cleanup of hazardous waste at the Taylor Borough site in Pennsylvania. The court had earlier granted summary judgment in favor of the government, but since then, the Third Circuit rendered its decision in United States v. Rohm & Haas Co., 21 ELR 21345 (1993), which limits the recovery of oversight costs when such costs are sought as removal costs. The court first holds that the Rohm & Haas decision also limits recovery of oversight costs when they are deemed remedial costs. Even if the Rohm & Haas holding was limited solely to the recoverability of oversight costs as removal costs, its analysis applies with equal force to the argument that such costs are recoverable as remedial costs. CERCLA §101(24)'s definition of remedial costs contains no specific reference to oversight costs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency incurs in supervising remedial actions undertaken by private parties. Moreover, other CERCLA provisions also support rejecting the government's argument that Congress intended to allow recovery of the costs of overseeing private-party cleanups. Finally, the court holds that its determination that defendants' Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment based on the Rohm & Haas decision, was timely renders irrelevant the government's argument that an intervening change in the law is not a valid justification for the filing of a Rule 60 motion for relief from judgment.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 19 ELR 20828, 21 ELR 20489, 22 ELR 20764, and 23 ELR 20088.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
W. Benjamin Fisherow, Steven R. Baer
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Brian J. Cali, Robert A. Cecchini
103 E. Drinker St., Dunmore PA 18045
(717) 347-7887