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A “Blunt Withdrawal”? Bars on Citizen Suits for Toxic Site Cleanup

By Margot J. Pollans

Throughout the history of federal statutory environmental law, citizen suits have played a key role in enforcement. Through statutory interpretation, however, courts have narrowed the circumstances under which citizens can sue. This Article explores one such restraint: Courts have severely limited citizen suits under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) by reading very broadly a jurisdiction-stripping provision of RCRA’s companion statute, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). This Article argues that courts have read that provision too broadly, not only violating traditional principles for resolving inter-statutory conflict but also undermining the purposes of both statutes by eliminating what could be an essential mechanism for combating delay during toxic site cleanups.

Cite as: Margot J. Pollans, A “Blunt Withdrawal”?  Bars on Citizen Suits for Toxic Site Cleanup, 37 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 441 (2013).

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