Quote of the Day - In charity there is no excess.
Cooper Industries held that CERCLA section 113 did not allow recovery for voluntary cleanups. But it left open the question of whether such costs could be recovered under CERCLA sections 106 or 107). Section 106 enables the government to compel (read: order) private parties to undertake cleanup of contaminated sites. Section 107 allows for cost-recovery suits for response costs incurred by the government and certain others, as long as the cleanup is consistent with the National Contingency Plan.
The New York court just decided the case of Elementis Chemicals Inc. v. T H Agriculture and Nutrition LLC (subscription required, and only available on PACER, not the Court's website). It went further than precedent, and dismissed plaintiff's claims that defendants were liable under CERCLA for its response costs. The court also rejected Elementis Chemical's arguments that it was entitled to recover voluntary response costs.
If that continues to be the law, we can expect good corporate citizens who want to voluntarily clean up contamination will not be able to afford to do so.