Understanding Cleanup Statutes

19 March 2012 Publication

Texas Lawyer

Owning property contaminated by hazardous material can result in government cleanup requirements, depress the value of the property, and create a possible threat to human health and the environment—not a good thing.

The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) facilitates the cleanup of contaminated property by creating a federal cause of action that may allow landowners to recover a portion of their cleanup costs from the class of what CERCLA calls potentially responsible parties (PRPs).

CERCLA's passage in 1980 changed the nature of real estate transactions by establishing new statutory liabilities among buyers and sellers of contaminated property, and all significant real estate transactions should address potential liability under CERCLA.

But attorneys dealing with environmental-law issues should know that CERCLA is not the only game in town. Section 361.344 of the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA) contains a Texas version of CERCLA that provides a state cause of action for recovery of cleanup costs.

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