07 May 2020

Interpretation of ARCO v. Christian Already Before Appellate Courts

Less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, the scope of the ruling is before the First and Ninth circuits. On April 28, 2020, Rhode Island and several California counties argued that Atlantic Richfield supported efforts to remand to state court lawsuits filed against energy producers seeking relief based on alleged contributions to climate change. Although these lawsuits do not address the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) — the statute at issue in Atlantic Richfield — the states’ supplemental filings assert that the Court’s jurisdictional holding means that these claims should proceed in state court.

As we explained here, Atlantic Richfield addressed whether CERCLA barred certain claims asserted by parties proceeding in state court when those remedies conflicted with the remedy chosen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under CERCLA. The Court found that CERCLA did bar some claims but that many state law claims are not barred and that state courts may retain jurisdiction over such claims because they arise under state law, not CERCLA. Seizing on this portion of the Court’s opinion, the plaintiffs argued that the claims also arise under state law, thus should be allowed to remain in state court. These are the first of many cases that will consider the interpretation of Atlantic Richfield.