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Ruth Podems, (215) 814-5540
PHILADELPHIA -- Reversing a lower court judgment, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has reinstated the federal government’s lawsuit against Occidental Chemical Corp. over the cleanup of the Centre County Kepone Superfund Site in State College, Pa.
In its December 28, 1999 opinion, the appeals court ruled that EPA acted within its legal authority when it ordered Occidental in March 1997 to participate in a cleanup plan that EPA had negotiated with Ruetgers-Nease Corp. The agency had named both companies as "potentially responsible parties," or PRPs, that may have contributed to the hazardous substances found at the site. The two companies, and their corporate predecessors, were involved in the manufacture of pesticides and other chemicals at the 32-acre site, which was designated a Superfund site in 1983. The site is located at Struble Road and State Highway 26, approximately two miles northwest of State College Pa.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Walter Stapleton rejected Occidental’s argument that the Superfund law barred EPA from ordering non-settling parties to participate in a cleanup plan negotiated with other PRPs. Judge Stapleton wrote that "by issuing administrative orders to non-settling PRPs" EPA promotes the law's "objectives of promoting fairness at multi-party sites, and accelerating the statute’s ultimate goal -- site cleanup." The court ruled that the statute gives EPA the "unqualified, express authority" to take legal actions against non-settling PRPs.
The appeals court reversed and remanded the case to the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg for further proceedings.