The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) imposes strict, retroactive liability on owners or operators of sites contaminated with hazardous waste. CERCLA also authorizes private parties and the Environmental Protection Agentry (EPA) to initiate the cleanup process and to recover the costs of that cleanup from the responsible party. The language of section 7 of CERCLA, however, is ambiguous as to whether attorneys' fees incurred in litigation to recover these response costs are recoverable. The Supreme Court in Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, held that private parties cannot recover attorneys' fees in such actions. Even so, the Court expressly reserved judgment on the issue of whether, in recovery actions taken by EPA, attorneys 'fees could be recovered. This 'Comment argues that the history, structure, and pU1pose of CERCLA all suggest that the Supreme Court should follow the decision of the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Chapman, and hold that EPA attorneys' fees are recoverable as part of the response costs of cleanup.
K. J. Northcutt,
Reviving CERCLA's Liability: Why Government Agencies Should Recover Their Attorneys' Fees in Response Cost Recovery Actions,
B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev.