A recent Supreme Court ruling keeps North Carolina’s “statute of repose”
in place to shield long-term polluters from prosecution, but never fear, legislation is making its way through the General Assembly.
Earlier this week, INDY reported on CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, which upheld a North Carolina law that says lawsuits against a polluter must be brought within 10 years of the last contaminating action.
Since that ruling, SB 574
has been amended in the House to reflect critiques of the original statute of repose.
In the bill’s current language, “the General Assembly finds that the Supreme Court's decision is inconsistent with the legislature's intentions and the legislature's understanding of federal law at the time that certain actions were filed.”
SB 574 allows lawsuits to be filed against a polluter for “groundwater contaminated by a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant” with no 10-year statute of repose.
The bill initially only said the statute of repose does not apply to contamination before June 2013, but was amended Rep. Nathan Ramsey, a Republican from Buncombe County to put no restrictions on groundwater-related lawsuits. The Supreme Court case against CTS Corp. originated in Asheville, which is in Buncombe County.
SB 574, with its current amendments, has passed the House and has been sent back to the Senate for its consideration.
If the bill becomes law, the statute of repose for land, air and other forms of water pollution would still be in place, making it easy for industry to skirt lawsuits as long as no negative health effects are noticed within 10 years of contamination.