Saturday, December 17, 2011

Court tells landowners it's time to clean up their mess

From the NY Times:

In a decision affecting some of New York’s most toxic sites, the Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that state environmental regulators could seek to require companies responsible for the pollution to restore the areas to the condition they were in before the contamination occurred.

At the heart of the case was the question of how clean is clean enough under the state’s Superfund program, which oversees the cleanup of landfills, rivers and former industrial places where toxic chemicals were disposed of or stored.

A coalition of companies that own some of the properties sued the state in 2007, arguing that the Department of Environmental Conservation had the authority only to require the removal of “significant” environmental threats, not to mandate a cleanup that restored a site to its pre-industrial condition.

But in its 5-to-2 decision, the Court of Appeals said that the conservation department “did not exceed its authority or act contrary to law” in enforcing a regulation meant to remove existing or potential hazards that pose a significant threat or imminent danger of irreversible damage to the environment.

Under the regulation, department officials can call for restoration of contaminated sites to “pre-disposal conditions to the extent feasible.”

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