Court Rejects G.E.'s Constitutional Challenge

G.E. Argues Provision of "Superfund" Law Denies Company Due Process

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Nancy Eve Cohen
Court Rejects G.E.'s Constitutional Challenge
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Court Rejects G.E.'s Constitutional Challenge
A federal appeals court has rejected General Electric’s argument that a provision of a federal toxic waste clean-up law is unconstitutional. WNPR’s Nancy Cohen reports.
 
Under the federal “Superfund” law, companies are liable for the cost of cleaning up hazardous waste that they dumped on a site, or even on a property they own where someone else placed toxic waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can compel a company to clean up the waste by issuing what’s known as a “unilateral administrative order”. General Electric has been arguing in court for nearly a decade that these orders are unconstitutional. G.E. Spokesman Mark Behan says they violate the company’s right to due process.
 
“The Superfund law has a provision that denies  individuals or companies like G.E. the right to go to court to challenge an order from the government  that could require the expenditure of potentially millions of dollars. In our system everybody gets their day in court.”
 
But this week, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and rejected G.E.’s argument. Professor Patrick Parenteau from the Vermont Law School says the Court is saying under the law GE can get its day in court.
 
“You’re just not going to get it before the E.P.A. issues the order. You’ll have the choice: either comply with the order or refuse to comply, in which case E.P.A. will sue you and you can argue your case at that point.”

 General Electric is evaluating whether it will pursue the case further.

For WNPR I’m Nancy Cohen.