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United States v. Consolidation Coal Co.

345 F.3d 409 (2003)

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United States v. Consolidation Coal Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

345 F.3d 409 (2003)

Facts

More than 74 companies had deposited multiple types of hazardous waste into a landfill over more than seven decades. After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the landfill as a Superfund site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), it requested that companies that were potentially responsible for cleanup costs at the landfill work together to create a cleanup plan. Over time and in multiple stages, a number of the potentially liable companies developed a cleanup plan that was approved by the EPA. At some point in this process, the United States (plaintiff), on behalf of the EPA, brought suit against a number of companies for recovery costs, some of which filed third-party suits against 64 third-party defendants (the third parties) for contribution. Neville Chemical (Neville) (defendant) was one of the third parties. Neville had been notified of the cleanup process at an earlier point by the EPA. At all points of the process, Neville had declined to participate. The district court found that Neville was responsible for 6 percent of the past and future cleanup costs related to the landfill. The district court divided up the equitable shares of all the third parties by first dividing them by their type of contribution and assigned each category of contributor a percentage of responsibility based on the contributors’ culpability and whether they knew or should have known that they were illegally dumping hazardous waste, as follows: industrial generators and transporters, 60 percent; owners and operators of the landfill, 25 percent; the miners who dumped mining “gob” on the land before it was a landfill, 10 percent; and generators and transporters of municipal waste, 5 percent. Neville’s share came from within the 60 percent liability assigned to industrial generators and transporters and reflected adjustments for Neville’s having not sought legally required approval from the local government prior to dumping at the site and for Neville’s failure to cooperate throughout the cleanup process as requested by the EPA. Neville appealed the district court’s finding of liability and allocation of costs against it. Neville claimed the district court abused its discretion by allocating 60 percent of the costs to industrial generators and transporters and by adjusting Neville’s liability based on Neville’s failure to obtain prior approval and to participate in creating the cleanup plan.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Daughtrey, J. Yes. A trial court has broad discretion under CERCLA to allocate contributions for cleanup costs. Under § 9613(f)

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