In 1997, DuPont and ConocoPhillips sued the United States pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), alleging entitlement to reimbursement of costs expended cleaning up hazardous waste from fifteen sites previously owned by the government during World Wars I and II, and the Korean War. E.I. DuPont, et al v. USA, et al, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Docket No. 2:97-CV-00487-WJM-MF. The decade-long dispute finally ended in a compromise wherein the government agreed to pay DuPont $51M and ConocoPhillips $1M for past and future clean-up costs.
The settlement comes one year after the Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corp. in which the Court established that a potentially responsible party can sue other responsible parties under Section 107 of CERCLA to recover voluntary clean-up costs. The Third Circuit had previously held that DuPont could not recover under CERCLA. Following the High Court’s decision in Atlantic Research, however, the Third Circuit remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration. This settlement agreement was promoted by the Atlantic Research decision.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, DuPont agreed to indemnify the United States up to $51M against any claims, past and future, arising from fourteen of the sites, and ConocoPhillips agreed to indemnity up to $1M for the remaining site. The government, DuPont, and ConocoPhillips have admitted no liability in connection with the settlement.