Supreme Court Halts GE’s Superfund Challenge

by | Jun 7, 2011

The Supreme Court said yesterday that it would not take up a case in which General Electric had challenged how the Environmental Protection Agency orders companies to clean up Superfund sites.

GE and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had fought the EPA’s authority to issue unilateral administrative orders, the New York Times reports. Companies that refuse to comply with these orders can face triple the damages and daily fines of up to $37,500.

GE said the law gives EPA too much power in negotiating settlements with companies. The company’s lawyers, led by Kathleen Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, had argued that the orders violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. Sullivan argued that the orders make judicial reviews conditional on the threat of triple damages and fines.

But the Obama administration argued that no federal court of appeals has ever found that such orders violate due process, so the Supreme Court has no reason to intervene.

GE had previously lost both in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Theodore Garrett, co-chairman of the environmental practice group at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., told the Times he was “not surprised” the court had not taken the case. He said that industry may now ask Congress to change the law.

The status quo is “quite troublesome” for companies because “EPA does issue these orders without any process at all,” Garrett added.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

Share This