We’ve been speaking in recent posts about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program, which has the goal of identifying and cleaning up sites contaminated with toxic waste, and then holding responsible parties responsible for that cleanup. In our last post, we spoke briefly about how the EPA generally approaches Superfund cleanup liability.
It is important to point out for readers that the EPA, in handling the issue of liability for toxic waste contamination, always aims to reach a settlement agreement with potentially liable parties rather than to issue an order for payment. For this reason, negotiation is usually part of the process of resolving these cases. Taking an active role in Superfund negotiation is important not only because there may be special circumstances which impact a party’s liability for site cleanup, but also because it can help a party to reach a form of settlement which takes their interests into account.
There are a variety of ways of resolving Superfund negotiations, including administrative and judicial options. Among the administrative means, some involve cost recovery or a “cash out” agreement while others involve allowing the responsible party to investigate the site and clean it up. Settlement agreements typically include an obligation to maintain long-term environmental cleanup efforts
Which settlement option best suits a responsible party obviously varies with the circumstances of the case and parties which take an active role in the negotiation process have a better chance of resolving their case in a way that best takes their interests into consideration. An experienced attorney can help a party identity its needs and goals in negotiation and can provide necessary advocacy to ensure those interests are represented in the process.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, “Negotiating Superfund Settlements,” Accessed Feb. 23, 2015.