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Case Summary Citation

Asarco LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Company, 866 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2017).

Abstract

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabiltiy Act, commonly known as CERCLA, facilitates cleanup of hazardous waste sites and those contaminated by other harmful substances by empowering the Environmental Protection Agency to identify responsible parties and require them to undertake or fund remediation. Because pollution sometimes occurrs over long periods of time by multiple parties, CERCLA also enables polluters to seek financial contribution from other contaminators of a particular site. The Ninth Circuit clarified the particuar circumstances under which contribution actions may arise in Asarco LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co., holding non-CERCLA settlements may give rise to CERCLA contribution actions, and corrective measures imposed under different environmental statutes may qualify as response actions required for a responsible party to seek contribution from another. In addition, the court clarified what constitutes resolved liability in such situations, another prerequisite for contribution actions. That final determination led it to vacate a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Atlantic Richfield based on an erroneous conclusion that Asarco, in seeking financial contribution from Atlantic Fichfield for remediating a CERCLA site both had contaminated, exceeded the applicable statute of limitations. The case was thus remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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