Congress enacted the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [RCRA] to deal with the safe and long term disposal of our nations solid and hazardous wastes. RCRA does not include a limitations period within its statutory language. Various federal district and circuit courts of appeal have applied the general five-year statute of limitations to civil penalties under other environmental statutes. RCRA's goals and policies, however, differ from these statutes in many respects. It is likely that the federal courts will also apply the general federal five-year statute of limitations to RCRA civil penalties. The author proposes that courts should be cautious in applying a limitations period to the enforcement of RCRA civil penalties. The author further points out the various events and tools which should toll the running of a limitations period if a court should hold that a limitations period does apply to RCRA civil penalty enforcement. Even if the courts do hold that RCRA civil penalties are limited by the general five-year statute of limitations, this will not apply to RCRA's injunctive relief. RCRA's injunctive relief will not be limited by such a strict limitations period. The equitable doctrine of laches, however, will likely apply to RCRA injunctive relief.
Recommended CitationTimothy E. Shanley, Applying a Strict Limitations Period to RCRA Enforcement: A Toxic Concept with Hazardous Results?, 10 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 275 (2010)
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