Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 7 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 809 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

(1976) (citing Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U. S. 240, 247 (1975)). Recognition of the availability of attorney's fees therefore requires a determination that "Congress intended to set aside this longstanding American rule of law." Runyon, 427 U. S., at 185-186. Neither CERCLA 107, the liabilities and defenses provision, nor 113, which authorizes contribution claims, expressly mentions the recovery of attorney's fees. The absence of specific reference to attorney's fees is not dispositive if the statute otherwise evinces an intent to provide for such fees. The Eighth Circuit, for example, found "a sufficient degree of explicitness" in CERCLA's references to "necessary costs of response" and "enforcement activities" to warrant the award of attorney's fees and expenses.6 Mere "generalized commands," however, will not suffice to authorize such fees. Id., at 186.

The three components of Key Tronic's claim for attorney's fees raise somewhat different issues. We first consider whether the fees for prosecuting this action against the Air Force are recoverable under CERCLA. That depends, again, upon whether the "enforcement activities" included in 101(25)'s definition of "response" encompass a private party's action to recover cleanup costs from other PRP's such

6 See General Electric Co. v. Litton Industrial Automation Systems, Inc., 920 F. 2d 1415, 1421-1422 (1990). After setting out the relevant language of 107(a)(4)(B) and 101(25), the court concluded that a private party cost-recovery action is an enforcement activity within the meaning of the statute, that attorney's fees "necessarily are incurred in this kind of enforcement activity," and that "it would strain the statutory language to the breaking point to read them out of the 'necessary costs' that section 9607(a)(4)(B) allows private parties to recover." Ibid. The court's subsequent conclusion that CERCLA authorizes private parties to recover attorney's fees was "based on the statutory language" and was "consistent with two of the main purposes of CERCLA—prompt cleanup of hazardous waste sites and imposition of all cleanup costs on the responsible party." Id., at 1422.

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