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New York v. Solvent Chemical Co.

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20002
Nos. 10-2026 et al., (2d Cir., 12/19/2011)

The Second Circuit held that a lower court should have granted a chemical manufacturer's request for declaratory judgment against adjoining property owners under CERCLA for future costs it will incur cleaning up industrial pollution. The manufacturer sued the two adjoining property owners for costs it had incurred and continues to incur cleaning up hazardous waste pursuant to a consent decree with the state of New York. The lower court awarded the manufacturer contribution for past costs, but it declined to issue a declaratory judgment as to future contribution. But a declaratory judgment would serve a useful purpose in settling the legal issues involved, it is not being used for procedural gamesmanship or a race to res judicata, it would not increase friction between sovereign legal systems, and there is no better or more effective remedy. In fact, there would be no remedy for the manufacturer without declaratory relief since the consent decree was entered in 1997 and CERCLA's three-year statute of limitations has therefore expired. It does not matter that a declaratory judgment of liability alone will not finalize the controversy and offer relief from all uncertainty.