Guam can pursue its $160 million claims against the U.S. Navy for the cost of cleaning up Ordot dump, the Supreme Court said in a ruling Monday that allows the island to turn the tables on the federal government.
The ruling capped a long-running dispute between the local and federal governments over the 70-year-old landfill, which cost Guam more than $200 million to shut down and replace.
The justices unanimously reversed a lower court's dismissal of Guam's lawsuit based on the statute of limitation.
Guam sued the Navy in 2017 under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, countering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2002 legal action that forced the local government to borrow money to cover the cost of closing Ordot and rebuilding a new landfill.
The court rejected the Navy’s argument that Guam's case was time-barred.
Guam argued that only a settlement of CERCLA-specific liability and not a Clean Water Act settlement could trigger the statute of limitations.
“To be sure, as the government points out, remedial measures that a party takes under another environmental statute might resemble steps taken in a formal CERCLA ‘response action,’” states the decision penned by Justice Clarence Thomas wrote. “CERCLA contribution requires resolution of a CERCLA-specific liability.”