Issue Date: June 18, 2007
Contractor can sue Pentagon for cleanups
The U.S. Supreme Court last week opened the door for federal contractors to seek money from the government when they voluntarily clean up contaminated Superfund sites. The case involved Atlantic Research Corp., which contaminated groundwater with rocket propellant when it retrofitted rocket motors for the military in Camden, Ark. The company voluntarily cleaned up the site at its own expense and sued the government under the federal Superfund law to recover some of its cleanup costs. In its unanimous decision, the high court dismissed Bush Administration arguments that Superfund law prohibited such suits. The Court's decision only affects companies that clean up pollution on their own before EPA takes legal action against them under Superfund law. The June 11 decision allows contractors that have voluntarily cleaned up a site to seek reimbursement from the agency they worked for. The decision is expected to have major ramifications for many companies that are or were Pentagon contractors that created contamination while working for the military. It potentially could encourage the companies to remediate the pollution voluntarily and then seek government reimbursement.
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