61 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2007
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) confounds every theory of statutory interpretation. Congress hurriedly enacted CERCLA during the lame-duck period following the election of President Reagan and a Republican Senate majority in November 1980 but before they took office in January 1981. The resulting statute has been criticized for its apparently textual mistakes, sparse legislative history, conflicting purposes, and questionable public policy. Courts routinely complain about the difficulty of interpreting CERCLA under those circumstances. This article reviews several of the interpretive challenges presented by CERCLA, and suggests some broader implications for statutory interpretation more generally.
Keywords: CERCLA, hazardous waste, interpretation, legislative history
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