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GE Loses 9-Year Fight Against CERCLA

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge has granted the EPA's motion for summary judgment against General Electric, ending the corporation's 9-year battle against CERCLA - the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act - which gives the EPA power to force polluting companies to clean up their mess or face civil penalties.

In 2000, General Electric claimed that the EPA used the law to levy civil penalties and punitive damages against polluters without a hearing, in violation of due process.

CERCLA gives the EPA power to force polluters to pay for the cost of cleaning up the hazardous materials they discharge. After years of appeals, U.S. District Judge John Bates granted the EPA's motion for summary judgment.

But the EPA said no greater process was required than its own, and the court agreed. It rejected GE's argument that CERCLA was unconstitutionally coercive or deprived polluters of property or liberty, since the EPA could use it only in emergency situations.

"GE had not shown the EPA's pattern and practice of administrating [the law] violates due process," Judge Bates said in a ruling issued late last month and subsequently published on the district court's website. The EPA has the constitutional power, said Bates, to deal with emergency clean-up situations however it sees fit.

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