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Copyright (c) 1985 Vanderbilt Law Review, Vanderbilt University Law School
Vanderbilt Law Review

NOTE: Belly Up Down in the Dumps: Bankruptcy and Hazardous Waste Cleanup

May, 1985

Vanderbilt Law Review

38 Vand. L. Rev. 1037


Katherine Simpson Allen



In recent years, the critical risks of improper storage and disposal of hazardous and toxic substances have become frighteningly apparent, 1 and the regulation of hazardous waste disposal has become come increasingly comprehensive and complex, on both the federal and state level. On the federal level, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 2 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or the Superfund Act) 3 together provide a comprehensive statutory and regulatory scheme designed to cleanup existing hazardous waste disposal sites and to prevent the growth of future dangerous sites. 4 Other federal statutes address in a more general way the problem of toxic 5 or hazardous substances in the air 6 and water. 7 In addition, both RCRA and CERCLA allow, encourage, and even demand state participation in establishing and enforcing hazardous waste regulations on a local level. 8 On the state level, regulatory schemes are similar to the federal laws, 9 or even more stringent. 10

With the increasingly comprehensive federal regulation of the hazardous waste disposal industry, the cost of safe and legal disposal has skyrocketed. 11 The huge costs have forced some companies out of business 12 and have prompted other companies to evade regulations by using illegal disposal methods. 13 Often the companies go into bankruptcy. Conflicts then arise between the goals, policies, and provisions of the Federal Bankruptcy Code 14 and the goals, policies, and provisions of state and federal hazardous waste laws. 15

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