2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

The parties to a case brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) regarding the Reilly Tar CERCLA Site (the “Site”) reached a settlement in 2019, amending a 1986 settlement. Two companies that own property downgradient of the Site asked to be allowed to intervene in the case to challenge the 2019 settlement.

CVOCs Found at the Site
The companies trying to challenge the settlement allege that chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) from the Site are migrating in groundwater to their property. The companies have been remediating CVOCs on their property since 2015, some of which they assert came from the Site. They requested an opportunity to demonstrate that the 2019 settlement harmed them because it does not require remediation of the CVOCs at the Site and may increase migration of CVOCs to their property. The companies want the settlement changed to require remediation of CVOCs at the Site and more extensive monitoring for better understanding of CVOC migration.

No Harm to the Downgradient Landowners from the Settlement
In US v. Reilly Tar, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision to refuse to allow the companies to intervene and challenge the settlement. According to the 8th Circuit, the companies did not meet the requirements to challenge the CERCLA settlement because the settlement did them no legal harm. The companies have no risk of being held responsible for the Site, nor did the settlement decrease the companies’ rights to seek contribution for the costs of remediating the CVOCs on the downgradient property from the parties responsible for the Site.

To see the 8th Circuit’s opinion https://ecf.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/22/08/202786P.pdf