Abstract

As environmental awareness has surged over the last two decades, environmental law has rapidly developed. In both agricultural and industrial countries, the environment is a sensitive and vital area where substantial economic interests are at stake. In the United States, many social, political, and economic reasons have spawned rapid expansion of environmental law. Congress has enacted numerous statutes and empowered federal agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to adopt standards and enforce these new laws. A decade ago, environmental liability was not a major concern for US businesses and was rarely dealt with in commercial contracts. However, the situation for the private sector has changed drastically due to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Now, it is not uncommon for companies or individuals to be faced with cleanup costs of hundreds of millions of dollars. This has created a whole sub-industry of specialists for companies dealing with environmental problems, including lawyers, consultants, engineers, and lobbyists. In the EU, environmental law has developed at a slower pace due to its particular structure and complicated legislative procedure. However, with the Single European Act (SEA) in 1987, and the new Maastricht Treaty in 1993, environmental concerns are becoming more prominent in the EU, and European companies will soon be facing the same problems that have arisen in the US. This paper examines the impact of the CERCLA that regulates hazardous waste liability in the US and the resulting problems from its application that the EU’s legislators should seriously consider before adopting a European counterpart to CERCLA, which is currently under consideration.