Posted by: tommtn | April 22, 2013

Local Governments and US Announce Settlement with Goodrich Corporation Resolving Perchlorate Contamination in the Rialto-Colton Basin, San Bernardino County, California

Our client, the County of San Bernardino, has entered a settlement with Goodrich Corporation to address contamination in the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin, after almost a decade of contentious litigation.  The settlement, which also includes the United States EPA, the United States Department of Defense, the Cities of Rialto and Colton, and United Technologies Corporation (which purchased Goodrich), will require Goodrich to perform various investigation and clean-up activities to address releases of perchlorate and other chemicals from the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site in Rialto, California.  Goodrich and the County, along with the other parties, executed mutual releases in the settlement and the settlement also provides contribution protection for the County.  The settlement entered into with Goodrich, coupled with related settlements, provides for dismissal of all appeals challenging earlier settlements that were entered into in favor of our clients.   The settlement was reported in the Los Angeles Times, and other media.

This global resolution is made possible by the initial settlements we negotiated for our clients in 2008, which served as a key catalyst for the current round of settlements.  These earlier private party settlements secured a federal court order barring claims of other defendants against the County (and related parties), whether alleged under CERCLA section 107, CERCLA section 113, or common law.  The federal court order was issued pursuant to common law because the settlement was not a settlement with a state or the federal government pursuant to CERCLA section 113(f)(2), but instead was a settlement with local governments (the Cities of Colton and Rialto).  Several parties appealed that order (and a similar order in favor of Zambelli Fireworks who we also represent in this matter) to the Ninth Circuit.  All appeals of that order will be dismissed as part of the current round of settlements.

The Goodrich settlement requires Goodrich to conduct groundwater monitoring, testing, and engineering analyses to assist EPA in selecting a remedy for the B.F. Goodrich Site.  Furthermore, Goodrich must design, build, and operate the cleanup facilities necessary to implement the cleanup selected by EPA.  Goodrich will be responsible for at least $21,500,000 of the cost of this cleanup.  Other amounts will be paid by contributions from various settlements, the United States Department of Defense, and additional payments by Goodrich as needed.   The EPA will publish the proposed settlement in the Federal Register for public comment and then it is anticipated the United States will move for the court to approve and enter the settlement.

This settlement, combined with other settlements addressing contamination in the Rialto-Colton Basin, will secure comprehensive remediation of the groundwater and soil contamination at the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site and nearby areas.  The complex series of lawsuits over contamination in the Rialto-Colton Basin involves over fifty parties and response costs are estimated to be in excess of $150 million.  Overall, the most recent settlements should bring global resolution of this case.

The range of settlements in this case demonstrate different paths to resolving liability in the context of large, multi-party CERCLA litigation.  Following questions raised regarding the scope of the CERCLA section 113(f)(2) contribution bar by the Supreme Court, parties are now forced to implement new strategies in an effort to obtain finality in settlements.  The protracted settlement negotiations in this case also highlight the difficulties in reaching a global resolution in such cases.

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