Before enactment of Senate Enrolled Act 346 (the “Act”), the statute of limitations for claims under Indiana’s Underground Storage Tank Act (“USTA”) and Environmental Legal Action statute (“ELA”) was at best, ambiguous. The USTA allows recovery against the owner or operator of a UST at the time of release of a contaminant. Somewhat similarly, the ELA allows recovery of costs associated with remediating contaminated property against anyone who caused or contributed to the contamination. However, neither the USTA nor the ELA provide a timeline stating when a person must file a claim. The statutes’ ambiguity caused a great deal of confusion in Indiana’s courts. See Cooper Industries, LLC v. City of South Bend, 899 N.E.2d 1274 (Ind. 2009); Cooper Industries, LLC v. City of South Bend, 863 N.E.2d 1253 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (Conflict regarding which statue of limitations applied).
The Act removes speculation regarding whether Indiana’s general 10 year statute of limitations or the 6 year damage to property statute applies to these environmental claims. According to the Act, a 10 year statute of limitations will now apply to both the USTA and the ELA and will begin to toll once remediation costs are incurred. In short, a person may bring a cost recovery action under the USTA or ELA for costs incurred during the 10 year period preceding the filing of a lawsuit. Thus, the Act plainly and unambiguously defines when a person must file a claim for cost recovery under the USTA and ELA.
For more information on the new statutes of limitations for environmental claims, please contact Frank Deveau or any member of Taft’s Environmental Practice Group.