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Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co, v. Beazer East Inc.

7th Cir. Court of Appeals Docket: 14-3634 Opinion: September 21, 2015

In 1920 Peoples Gas and Beazer’s predecessor entered into a contract under which Beazer agreed to operate the coke byproduct and carbureted water gas plant at Crawford Station, Chicago using its patented coke-oven technology and Peoples Gas agreed to purchase all the gas and coke manufactured at the plant for distribution to consumers.

Chicago Coke opened in 1921. 7 years later Peoples acquired the assets of Chicago Cok and, eventually, its stock. Peoples then took over operations until 1956. Some of that land is still owned by Peoples. Peoples worked with the U.S. and Illinois EPA to investigate any potential contamination at the Crawford site and entered into agreements with the EPA to do cleanup. For investigation and removal work at Crawford, Peoples incurred over $70,000,000 in costs. Peoples sued Beazer to recover costs under CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. 9607(a) and 42 U.S.C. 9613(f)(3)(B).

The District Court dismissed the suit in part, finding that Peoples resolved its liability to the government via administrative settlement and therefore only had a claim for its contribution; that each consent order was subject to the 3-year limitations period under 42 U.S.C. 9613(g)(3)(B); and that a contribution claim under the 2011 consent order was barred by Beazer’s operator liability.

The District Court denied Beazer’s Motion relating to ownership of liability for the claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the 1920 Agreement bars Peoples’ contribution claims as to Beazer.

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