Governmental Cost Recovery Under the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act
Section 613 of the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act (“SWMA”),Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 35, § 6018.613, allows the Commonwealth or any municipality to recover the “costs of abatement” of “a public nuisance” under SWMA from a person who “causes a public nuisance” if the plaintiff government has in fact abated the nuisance. This provision has been used very rarely. Section 613 may be one of those dormant provisions that poses a significant liability risk, depending on what the courts decides counts as a compensible cost and what counts as “causing a public nuisance.”
In a recent unreported opinion, the Commonwealth Court held that provision of scrap tires to a purported tire recycler without inquiring into whether the tire recycler had a permit or in fact was recycling the tires violated SWMA and rendered the scrap tire hauler liable for its share of the costs incurred by the Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the resulting tire pile. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection v. Blue Chip Transportation Co., No. 153 C.D. 2012 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 13, 2012).