Document Type



This article considers climate change questions in the context of a particular type of contaminated site--sites with contaminated sediments subject to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Although climate change may impact a variety of waste sites in different ways, even those without sediment contamination, this article focuses on sediment sites so as to frame a more manageable inquiry susceptible to in-depth treatment. The following section, Part II, identifies the vulnerability of contaminated sediment sites to climate change. The section describes sediment contamination, regulatory approaches to remediating contaminated sediments, and how climate change may impact sediment remedies. Part III evaluates strategies for managing climate risks at closed, previously remediated sediment sites; these strategies include reopening consent decrees. Part IV considers how climate effects may impact the selection of remedies dependent on engineering or institutional controls at contaminated sediment sites. The article concludes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) should monitor sediment sites for climate-related damage, particularly after extreme weather events, and should require that future remedies be designed to withstand upper-bound, climate change-adjusted frequencies and severities of relevant climate events. Proposed approaches include more aggressive monitoring requirements that clearly require prompt assessment of sites after severe events, and agreements that contain modified reopener language that expressly addresses whether and when climate change-related weather events, projected or actual, will trigger a reopener.