Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Friday, April 12, 2019

What is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was passed in 1980 in response to the hazardous waste practices of the time. CERCLA provides federal funds to clean up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, spills, accidents, and other emergency releases of contaminants and pollutants into the environment.

CERCLA is an important environmental program, as it both ensures that valuable removal actions are taken and  enforces against responsible parties. As is discussed below, CERCLA relies on a number of enforcement tools to ensure that the above pollutants and hazards are removed in a timely manner. In addition, CERCLA promotes community involvement, accountability, and long-term protectiveness. Below is some additional information about CERCLA. 

Types of responses


CERCLA authorizes two types of cleanup responses: short-term removal and long-term environmental remediation. The removal actions undertaken pursuant to CERCLA must be done promptly to prevent, abate, minimize, mitigate, stabilize, or eliminate the identified environmental threat. Except for oil and gas, such actions may target hazardous materials, hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants.

Responsible parties 

CERCLA provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to seek out parties responsible for the release of the above substances to assure their assistance with cleanup. Responsible parties may include: 

  • Generators of hazardous materials on location
  • Transporters of hazardous materials to the site
  • Past or present site owners 

Under the Act, a responsible party may willingly undertake the response task after identification and notification by the EPA. However, if the responsible party is unwilling to undertake this task, the EPA will order it to do so. If the responsible party is unable to undertake the removal effort or otherwise refuses to comply, the EPA may then initiate the response itself and begin removal actions. When the EPA undertakes removal actions, its efforts are paid for by a trust fund created by a tax imposed on the petroleum and chemical industries.

Texas Environmental Law Attorneys 

If you or your company have been cited for non-compliance or are facing legal action based on non-compliance, then you need an experienced Texas environmental law attorney like C. William Smalling on your side. Smalling, with an extensive background in engineering, understands both the technical and legal aspects of situations affecting corporations in the oil, gas, and energy industries.

Whether negotiating with the government or litigating government enforcement actions and private tort suits, the experience and knowledge of C. William Smalling provide corporate clients with a significant edge in all oil, gas, and energy matters. We take pride in providing our business clients with the legal tools to remain confident while navigating the complicated world of environmental regulations. If your company is facing legal action or simply needs guidance in the area of environmental law, please contact the Law Office of C. William Smalling for a consultation. 


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