The disaster at Love Canal focused the nation's attention on hazardous waste sites left behind by years of corporate recklessness and mismanagement. To fill the regulatory gap and prevent future incidents like Love Canal, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The statute not only empowers the EPA to retroactively hold parties responsible for the mismanagement of hazardous waste, but it also provides a funding mechanism-Superfund-to ensure that the most dangerous sites are cleaned up even when responsible parties cannot be found or, more likely, are insolvent. However, an often-overlooked provision in the CERCLA framework grants broad indemnity to contractors that render services after a release or threatened release of hazardous substances. Though the indemnity provision was originally intended to incentivize contractors to bid, by decreasing the risk of undertaking cleanup, it has been an overly utilized facade for holding all response action contractors harmless to the detriment of the public. The Gold King Mine blowout in Silverton, Colorado illustrates the failure of government contracts to serve the people who stand to lose the most in the event of an environmental disaster. This Comment discusses the failure of the privatization of government functions to address social costs through the narrative of the Gold King Mine disaster. It further proposes a path forward to greater government accountability in the cleanup of our nation's most contaminated sites.
Holding the Harmful Harmless: Lessons from Gold King Mine,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol89/iss3/7