Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 8 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

that the attorney's fees associated with that action are then "necessary costs of response" within 107(a)(4)(B).


The 1986 amendments to CERCLA are the genesis of the term "enforcement activities"; we begin, therefore, by considering the statutory basis for the claim in the original CERCLA enactment and the SARA provisions' effect on it. In its original form CERCLA contained no express provision authorizing a private party that had incurred cleanup costs to seek contribution from other PRP's. In numerous cases, however, District Courts interpreted the statute—particularly the 107 provisions outlining the liabilities and defenses of persons against whom the Government may assert claims—to impliedly authorize such a cause of action.7

The 1986 amendments included a provision—CERCLA 113(f)—that expressly created a cause of action for contribution. See 42 U. S. C. 9613(f). Other SARA provisions, moreover, appeared to endorse the judicial decisions recognizing a cause of action under 107 by presupposing that such an action existed. An amendment to 107 itself, for example, refers to "amounts recoverable in an action under this section." 42 U. S. C. 9607(a)(4)(D). The new contribution section also contains a reference to a "civil action . . . under section 9607(a)." 42 U. S. C. 9613(f)(1). Thus the statute now expressly authorizes a cause of action for contribution in 113 and impliedly authorizes a similar and somewhat overlapping remedy in 107.

7 In Walls v. Waste Resource Corp., 761 F. 2d 311 (CA6 1985), Judge Merritt noted that District Courts "have been virtually unanimous" in holding that 107(a)(4)(B) creates a private right of action for the recovery of necessary response costs. Id., at 318 (citing Bulk Distribution Centers, Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 589 F. Supp. 1437, 1442-1444 (SD Fla. 1984); Jones v. Inmont Corp., 584 F. Supp. 1425, 1428 (SD Ohio 1984); Philadelphia v. Stepan Chemical Co., 544 F. Supp. 1135 (ED Pa. 1982); Pinole Point Properties, Inc. v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 596 F. Supp. 283, 293 (ND Cal. 1984)).

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