Carson Harbor Vill., Ltd. v. Unocal Corp.

990 F. Supp. 1188 (C.D. Cal. 1997)



Disposal warranting Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 9601 et seq., liability requires a showing that hazardous substances were affirmatively introduced into the environment. 


Plaintiff property owner discovered hazardous materials, reported it to the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), and voluntarily cleaned up the tar-like and slag materials. Plaintiff property owner sought reimbursement of hazardous material removal costs in an action brought against defendants, previous owners, tenant, and governmental entities, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA),42 U.S.C.S. § 9601 et seq., the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 6901 et seq., the Clean Water Act (CWA),33 U.S.C.S. § 1251 et seq., and common law claims. The court granted the summary judgment motions of the previous owners, the tenant, and the governmental entities, except with respect to state law claims for nuisance and trespass asserted against the tenant. The court denied the property owner's motion for summary adjudication. The court ordered the property owner to show cause why the remaining state law claims should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


Can a party may recover for voluntary removal efforts under Cercla? 




The court held that the CERCLA claims failed as there was no evidence the removal was necessary, as required by 42 U.S.C.S. § 9607(a), where the RWQCB would not have ordered remediation. A party may recover for voluntary removal efforts such as this one. CERCLA, however, was not designed to permit property owners to clean up their property unnecessarily for business reasons, and then to shift the costs to prior owners. 

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