Superfund Litigation: Landowner Liability Protection

Are you concerned about superfund litigation based on your current ownership of a NJ property previously contaminated? The attorneys at SCC Legal have many years of experience handling complex redevelopment and environmental issues, resolved with great success. We share more about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund.

Landowner Liability Protection under Superfund Litigation  

New Jersey has more than a hundred Superfund sites, which also happens to be the highest number in the country. Current and potential property owners are understandably concerned about being held liable for cleaning up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. Fortunately, CERCLA offers landowner liability protections for parties qualifying as one of the following:

  • Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers (BFPPs)
  • Contiguous Property Owners (CPOs)
  • Third-Party Defenses/Innocent Landowners (ILOs)
  • Residential Property Owners and Lenders.

Landowner liability protection is self-implementing. Landowners must comply with the statute’s requirements to be protected. To keep this process as effortless as possible, we recommend enrolling the assistance of an environmental law attorney.

Different Responsible Classes under Superfund Law  

The Superfund law imposes liability on different classes of parties responsible for – in whole or part – the presence of hazardous substances at a site. The four potentially responsible party (PRP) classes are: 

  • Current owners and operators of a facility.
  • Past owners and operators of a facility at the time hazardous wastes were disposed of.
  • Generators and parties that arranged for the transport and disposal of the hazardous substances.
  • Transporters of hazardous waste selecting the site where the hazardous substances were brought. 

Defenses to Superfund liability are limited to cases where an act of God, acts of war, acts of a third party with whom a PRP has no contractual relationship, or state and local governments caused the release.

Exemptions and Legal Protections Against Superfund Liability  

CERCLA offers liability exemptions and legal protections for the following parties:

Exemptions

  • Generators of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), including certain residential, small business, and non-profit generators of MSW at National Priorities List (NPL) sites. 
  • Recyclers and Service Station Dealers who accept used oil from “do-it-yourselfers” and send it to another facility for recycling.

Protections

  • Cleanup Contractors at Superfund sites.
  • Landowners who meet BFPP, CPO or ILO criteria.
  • Public and private lenders generally have some protection.
  • Good Samaritans and persons Rendering Care in accordance with the National Contingency Plan. 
  • State and Local Governments providing emergency response to a hazardous substance release or threatened release. 

The Environmental Impact & Benefits of the Superfund Law  

Superfund cleanup is required at sites that contain toxic chemicals from processing plants, manufacturing facilities, mining and landfills. These chemicals are a threat to public health and the natural environment. The environmental cleanup of Superfund sites at Woolwich, Old Bridge Township, and Florence Township, NJ, is continuing due to additional Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds announced on February 27, 2024. Superfund regulations and cleanups eventually lead to revitalized communities and growing economic opportunities through redevelopment.    

For more information on environmental and real estate law, or if you want to know how we can help protect you against superfund litigation in NJ, please contact our team at SCC Legal today or visit our website at: https://scclegal.com

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