CERCLA specifically states that those who own or operate a contaminated area or site, those who transport the hazardous substances to that site, and those who produce or generate those substances must pay for the clean-up of such a place. For instance, consider a dump site with hazardous substances. The owner of the dumpsite or the operator of that dumpsite will be held responsible for the clean-up of the dump. The people who created the hazardous materials will also be held responsible. Finally, whoever transports the materials to the dumpsite will also have to pay for the clean-up.
CERCLA is retroactive. That means that if a site was polluted before 1980, the owner, operator, transporter, producer and generator will still be liable for the clean-up even though at the time they polluted the area, they were not doing anything illegal since the law did not exist yet.
There is no doubt that areas polluted with hazardous materials must be cleaned up. Those who have contaminated a place after the enactment of CERCLA on December 11, 1980, should unquestionably be held accountable for their actions. The question is: Who should pay for a clean-up of an area that was contaminated before 1980?
Companies Should Pay
Companies made money directly related to the dumping of hazardous materials so they should bear the costs
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If the companies do not pay for the clean-up, then all taxpayers will end up having to pay for it.
Companies Should Not Pay
It was not illegal to dump materials before 1980
CERCLA is illegal because the U.S. Constitution states that ex post facto laws shall not be passed
The companies disposed of the materials so long ago that they do not even remember where the hazardous materials were thrown away
Should a law be allowed even though it is retroactive so long as it protects us and our environment?
Where do we draw the line between promoting societal welfare, in this case protecting our environment and the health of people, and making people or companies pay for actions, in this case polluting areas that were not illegal to.