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Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Company

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

491 U.S. 1

Pennsylvania  v.  Union Gas Company

No. 87-1241  Argued: Oct. 31, 1988. --- Decided: June 15, 1989


Respondent's predecessors operated a coal gasification plant, which produced coal tar as a by-product, along a creek in Pennsylvania. Shortly after acquiring easements in the property along the creek, and while excavating to control flooding, the State struck a large deposit of coal tar which began to seep into the creek. Finding the tar to be a hazardous substance, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the site the Nation's first Superfund site, and the State and the Federal Government together cleaned up the area. The Government reimbursed the State for cleanup costs and sued respondent to recoup those costs under §§ 104 and 106 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9604 and 9606, claiming that respondent was liable because it and its predecessors had deposited the tar in the ground. Respondent filed a third-party complaint against the State, asserting, inter alia, that it was liable as an "owner and operator" of the site under § 107(a) of CERCLA. The District Court dismissed this complaint on the ground that the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity barred the suit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no clear expression of intent to hold States liable in monetary damages under CERCLA. However, after this Court vacated that decision and remanded for reconsideration in light of subsequent amendments to CERCLA made by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), the Court of Appeals held that the statute's amended language clearly rendered States liable for monetary damages and that Congress had the power to do so under the Commerce Clause.

Held: The judgment is affirmed, and the case is remanded.

832 F.2d 1343 (CA3 1987), affirmed and remanded.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).