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Clear Lake Properties v. Rockwell Int'l Corp.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21164
Nos. G-95-288, 959 F. Supp. 763/(S.D. Tex., 03/19/1997)

The court holds that a laboratory operator is liable for contribution under §113 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to the lessee of adjacent contaminated property. The court first rejects the lessee's argument that it may maintain a cost recovery action under §107(a). The lessee, which is liable under CERCLA for cleanup of contamination at that adjacent property, is a potentially responsible party. Therefore, its claim against the laboratory operator is essentially a contribution claim governed by §113. The court, however, rejects the laboratory operator's argument that because the lessee has not yet paid more than its share of response costs, its §113 claim is unripe. That assertion is contrary to the plain language of §113(f). The court next grants summary judgment to the lessee on its §113 claim. It is undisputed that a release of hazardous substances has occurred that has caused the lessee to incur response costs; the entire property at the laboratory site is a "facility"; and the laboratory operator, as the current operator of a contaminated facility, is a responsible party under §107(a). In addition, the laboratory operator cannot establish the innocent purchaser defense, because it had knowledge of the contamination when it acquired its property.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Walter D. James III
Hutcheson & Grundy
901 Main St., Ste. 6200, Dallas TX 75202
(214) 761-2800

Counsel for Defendant
Tracie Jo Renfroe
Bracewell & Patterson
Pennzoil Place
711 Louisiana St., S. Tower, Ste. 2900, Houston TX 77002
(713) 223-2900