The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) created a uniquely broad and powerful scheme of statutory liability for environmental cleanup of contaminated sites. CERCLA famously imposes strict, retroactive, joint and severable liability. One might wonder, especially through the lens of contemporary partisanship, how such a powerful, comprehensive liability scheme passed through Congress in 1980. In large part, CERCLA’s passage can be attributed to historical context that may appear wholly unique at first blush. Now, the world confronts another watershed of environmental history and past actors face a potential flood of liability. Much of the situation is different in 2022 from that in 1980. However, some important legal, political, and practical elements mirror those that paved the way for CERCLA’s passage. A statutory scheme for climate liability thus could serve as an important feature of climate adaptation policy as we move further into a century punctuated by the harsh realities of a changed climate. This paper not only analyzes the similarities between the eras in some detail, but uses that analysis as a base from which to launch a proposal for a Climate Adaptation Resilience and Liability Act (CARLA).
Harvard Environmental Law Review
Suggested Bluebook Citation
Anthony Moffa, From Comprehensive Liability to Climate Liability: The Case for Climate Adaptation Resilience and Liability Act (CARLA), 47 HARV. ENV't L. REV. 473 (2023).