indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Bush brief opposes review of Colville pollution case
Monday, November 26, 2007
Filed Under: Environment | Law

The Bush administration is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of an environmental dispute between a Canadian company and members of the Colville Confederated Tribes.

Joseph A. Pakootas, a former tribal chairman, and Donald R. Michel, a former council member, sued Teck Cominco in U.S. court in July 2004. They blamed the company's mine in British Columbia for polluting the Columbia River and the Colville Reservation in Washington.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Teck Cominco has dumped million tons of mine waste into a river just across the U.S. border, causing a threat to fish and humans on the reservation. Elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc were found in Lake Roosevelt.

The findings prompted the EPA to order Teck Cominco to pay for the costs of cleaning up the Columbia River. The company refused, saying it wasn't under U.S. jurisdiction.

But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Teck Cominco can be held liable for the pollution. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act -- also known as the Superfund law -- applies to the company "even though the original source of the hazardous substances is located in a foreign country," the court said in a July 2006 ruling.

After losing a request for a rehearing, the company asked the Supreme Court to intervene. The justices, however, kept the case on hold for more than six months in order to obtain the views of the Bush administration.

The Department of Justice finally responded in a brief last week. Government attorneys said the dispute over the Superfund law is no longer an issue because the EPA has withdrawn the cleanup order as part of a settlement with Teck Cominco.

"Now that EPA has withdrawn that order, respondents' citizen-suit claims -- the only claims considered by the lower courts -- are moot," Solicitor Paul D. Clement wrote in the 26-page brief. The respondents are Pakootas and Michel of the Colville Tribes.

The brief also says the 9th Circuit ruling, though it was the first of its kind, doesn't pose a major national issue worthy of Supreme Court review. The Teck Cominco case is the first in the 27-year history of the Superfund law to address pollution by a foreign company.

"The fact that the comity question in this case is apparently arising now for the first time, notwithstanding the decades-old potential for disputes concerning cross-border pollution, strongly suggests that it lacks the recurring importance that petitioner attributes to it," Clement wrote.

In addition to the settlement, the brief points to negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Teck Cominco as a reason to stay out of the dispute. Resolving the dispute through "diplomatic channels" is preferable to court action, government attorneys said.

At the same time, the brief said the pollution alleged by the Colville tribal members is unquestionably linked to Teck Cominco. "Petitioner's conduct could arguably be analogized in some respects to firing a gun across the border, because it was inevitable that the river would carry the pollution directly into the United States," it stated. "Moreover, the slag at the bottom and on the beaches of the Columbia River is clearly identifiable and directly attributable to petitioner’s actions."

The Colville Tribes have been pressuring the EPA since the Clinton administration to take action on the pollution. More recently, tribal leaders hired the lobbying firm of former Interior deputy secretary J. Steven Griles to address "cleanup of the Upper Columbia River," according to documents filed in the Senate.

Griles, who used to lobby for the mining industry, pleaded guilty in March to lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about his relationship with a convicted tribal lobbyist. He is currently serving a 10-month sentence in a federal prison in Virginia.

According to Senate documents, the tribe paid Griles and his firm $20,000 in 2005 and another $40,000 in 2006 on the Columbia River issue. The tribe ended its relationship with the firm at the end of 2006 and in early 2007, Griles ended his lobbying business.

The Colvilles have since switched to the firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, whose lobbyists include Paul Moorehead, a former Senate Indian Affairs Committee senior staffer. The firm is representing the tribe on "Lake Roosevelt funding," according to Senate documents. The tribe has another Washington firm to lobby on other Indian issues.

Relevant Documents:
DOJ Brief | Other Briefs | Docket Sheet: No. 06-1188

9th Circuit Decision:
Pakootas v. Teck Cominco (July 3, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Colville Confederated Tribes - http://www.colvilletribes.com
Teck Cominco - http://www.teckcominco.com
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://www.narf.org/sct/index.html
SCOTUS Blog - http://www.scotusblog.com

Related Stories:
Supreme Court seeks DOJ views on Colville case (7/18)RT9th Circuit won't rehear Colville pollution lawsuit (11/8)
9th Circuit allows tribal suit against mine company (07/05)
Report backs tribe in Columbia River pollution claim (03/08)
Diplomats discuss tribal spat with Canadian company (12/01)
Judge won't dismiss tribe's pollution lawsuit (11/09)
Canadian company fights tribe's lawsuit (11/5)
Mining company not worried about tribal-state lawsuit (09/02)
State joins tribal lawsuit against mining company (9/1)
Company seeks to dismiss tribal Superfund lawsuit (8/27)
Colville Tribes sue Canadian company over pollution (07/22)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux officer rejoins Rapid City police (10/30)
Mark Trahant: Native voters must be prepared on election day (10/30)
Kevin Gover: Mascot fight exposes myths about Native people (10/30)
Northern Arapaho Tribe: Newspaper got it wrong on joint council (10/30)
Peter d'Errico: Kevin Washburn honored by Indian law students (10/30)
Chris Deschene still urging Navajo Nation voters to choose him (10/30)
Tribes in North Carolina back Democrat Sen. Hagan in tight race (10/30)
NWPR: Tribes take steps to control growing herds of wild horses (10/30)
Opinion: Helping the Tongva people revive their own language (10/30)
Judge grants injunction to keep Chukchansi Tribe casino closed (10/30)
Tribes in South Dakota would benefit from gaming referendum (10/30)
Employee at Puyallup Tribe's casino gets wedding ring returned (10/30)
Editorial: Keep tribal casinos in California on existing Indian land (10/30)
Column: Menominee Nation off-reservation casino goes ignored (10/30)
Quapaw Tribe faces competition for Kansas commercial casino (10/30)
Native Sun News: Montana tribe sees cut in heating assistance (10/29)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Senate race is a real test of Native policy (10/29)
Winona LaDuke: Taking treaty advice from indigenous nations (10/29)
Vena A-Dae Romero: FDA failing to consult tribal governments (10/29)
Zachary Pullin: Native Americans overcame barriers to voting (10/29)
Navajo Nation president vetoes bill to address language issue (10/29)
Prairie Island Indian Community sues over nuclear waste rule (10/29)
County's letter on CSKT water compact talks stirs controversy (10/29)
Vice: Hip-hop artist Drezus on new journey after jail sentence (10/29)
Opinion: Overcoming stereotypes of Native American culture (10/29)
Charges sought in dispute at Chukchansi Tribe's closed casino (10/29)
Pechanga Band chair featured in ads against North Fork casino (10/29)
Grand Ronde Tribes continue fight against Cowlitz Tribe casino (10/29)
Puyallup Tribe offers reward for return of casino worker's ring (10/29)
Ask the Expert: Why can't I win at tribal casino slot machines? (10/29)
Native Sun News: Event commemorates Sand Creek Massacre (10/28)
Erma Vizenor: Join tribes for protest at NFL game in Minnesota (10/28)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation helps build tomorrow's leaders (10/28)
Ruth Hopkins: Tribes need to raise awareness of breast cancer (10/28)
Navajo Nation election officials refuse to delay upcoming vote (10/28)
Senate candidates battle for Indian vote in South Dakota race (10/28)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe lays claim to former reservation in Ohio (10/28)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe to investigate potential burial grounds (10/28)
Judge rules for tribes in Wyoming in dispute over diverted water (10/28)
Editorial: Delaware Tribe pursues return to homelands in Kansas (10/28)
Opinion: Cowboys and Indians come together on common cause (10/28)
Opinion: Help Moapa Band bring solar energy to more consumers (10/28)
Ex-employee sentenced for stealing from Passamaquoddy Tribe (10/28)
Chukchansi Tribe sends audits to NIGC as casino remains closed (10/28)
Little River Band still touting proposal for off-reservation casino (10/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe getting ready to debut golf course at casino (10/28)
Nisqually Tribe to launch part of $45M casino expansion project (10/28)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.