The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) represents the first major attempt on a national level to address the problem of abandoned hazardous waste sites. CERCLA permits an action to be brought in federal court for recovery of amounts disbursed from the Superfund against, inter alia, any person who arranges for treatment or disposal of wastes at a site, typically the generator of the hazardous wastes. CERCLA's enforcement provisions contain numerous ambiguities and apparent inconsistencies on issues that directly affect the potential liability of CERCLA's defendants. Many of the inadequacies probably can be traced to the last-minute compromise which led to the passage of the statute. The net effect of inadequate drafting and consideration of Superfund legislation is that the task of forging meaningful standards for liability under the final product is left largely to the courts. This Article discusses the significant legal issues which arise in government enforcement actions regarding the imposition of liability under CERCLA, and examines the role that courts have played in developing applicable standards of liability. This Article also examines the state of the law in the context of two common scenarios: (a) actions under section 107 of CERCLA for recovery of costs of response at a hazardous waste site; and (b) actions under section 106 of CERCLA for injunctive relief. Finally, this Article addresses: (1) who may be held liable; (2) under what conditions liability may arise; (3) what standard for liability exists; and (4) the extent of potential liability.
Stephen Q. Giblin & Dennis M. Kelly, Judicial Development of Standards of Liability in Government Enforcement Actions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 33 Clev. St. L. Rev. 1 (1984-1985)