Profil des organismes membres - aqtim

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Profil des organismes membres - aqtim

Act (CERCLA), the EPA can recover damages for environmentalcleanup from potentially responsible parties(PRPs). PRPs include the “owner and operator of …a facility.” CERCLA defines “owner” as “any personowning” a facility.The EPA asserted that Capital Tax was the owner ofthe property because it held legal title to five of theseven parcels at the site. Capital Tax countered that itheld legal title only as security for the balance of thepurchase price — in other words, that equitable ownershipof the property passed from Capital Tax to Dukattwhen their contract was executed. The court referredto this as “a classic ‘equitable conversion’ argument.”In most jurisdictions, on entering a contract for thepurchase of land, the buyer is the owner in equity ofthe property, and the seller holds legal title as securityfor payment of the purchase price. The court cited twofederal courts of appeals that have held that public orquasi-public companies that hold legal title to propertyto secure recoupment of development costs aren’t“owners” under CERCLA. It also noted that a numberof district courts have applied the doctrine of equitableconversion in CERCLA cases.Under CERCLA, theEPA can recover damagesfor environmental cleanup frompotentially responsibleparties (PRPs).The role of state property lawIn Capital Tax, the court was left to decide whetherto fashion its own federal rule for applying the doctrineof equitable conversion or to look to applicable Illinoislaw. It concluded that it need merely to look to statelaw for guidance, primarily because property relationshave historically been governed by state law. Further,the various state laws generally agree on the operationof the doctrine.In Illinois, the party invoking the doctrine mustshow that a valid and enforceable contract exists. TheIllinois statute of frauds requires that a valid contractfor the sale of land be in writing, but state courts haveroutinely recognized exceptions, including for pastperformance. A contract for the sale of land need notbe in writing if the buyer makes whole or partialpayment of the purchase price, takes possession andmakes substantial and lasting improvements.Stay tunedAnother defense for PRPsThe Court of Appeals in Capital Tax (see mainarticle) observed in a footnote that Capital Tax hasa potentially legitimate argument that it qualifiesfor the “security interest exclusion” to ownershipliability — even if it didn’t have a valid andenforceable contract that transferred ownershipto Dukatt under Illinois law.Section 101(20)(A) of the ComprehensiveEnvironmental Response, Compensation, andLiability Act (CERCLA) excludes from the definition ofan “owner or operator” any “person, who, withoutparticipating in the management of a … facility,holds indicia of ownership primarily to protect hissecurity interest” in the facility. “Security interest”includes the right to secure the repayment of moneyunder a mortgage, deed of trust, assignment, securityagreement or lease. A lender, for example,wouldn’t be liable solely because a mortgage issecured by an interest in contaminated property,provided the lender doesn’t participate in management.And merely having the capacity to influence,or the unexercised right to control, the facility doesn’tconstitute “participating in management.”According to the Capital Tax court, “The exclusionexplicitly recognizes that a person can hold ‘indiciaof ownership,’ such as legal title, and yet notbe the owner under CERCLA.” It’s up to a courtto determine if the PRP holds such indicia.The Court of Appeals sent the case back to thedistrict court to determine if Capital Tax had a validand enforceable contract under Illinois law. If Capital Taxdidn’t have such a contract, it could be liable as anowner for cleanup costs and could also owe $230,250in civil penalties. But if it did have a valid contract, itmight not be responsible for any of the EPA’s responsecosts — an amount nearing $2.7 million. v4

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