While we tend to think of a CERCLA “facility” as the real property where environmental contaminants have come to be located, it is important to remember that CERCLA’s definition of “facility” is actually much broader than that and can serve to open the door to “Potentially Responsible Parties” not considered in your initial cost recovery analysis.
Pursuant to CERCLA, the owner of a facility from which hazardous substances have been released is liable for the costs of responding to the release. Two recent CERCLA cases involving motor vehicles illustrate how CERCLA’s broad definition of “facility” expands CERCLA “owner” liability beyond ownership of contaminated real property to ownership of equipment and vehicles from which contaminates have been released. These cases also provide us with an answer to the question: Is your vehicle a CERCLA facility? And the answer is: It depends.