indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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 Government attorneys said the dispute over the Superfund law is no longer an issue because the EPA has withdrawn the cleanup order as part of a settlement with Teck Cominco.

"Now that EPA has withdrawn that order, respondents' citizen-suit claims -- the only claims considered by the lower courts -- are moot," Solicitor Paul D. Clement wrote in the 26-page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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Five tribes donate over $500K for Democratic party's convention (6/30)
Native Sun News: Lakota and Cheyenne people join forces again (6/30)
Lakota Country Times: Paper continues to reach large audience (6/30)
Cronkite News: Senate committee takes on tribal water issues (6/30)
Dave Archambault: A day for all of Indian Country to remember (6/30)
Vi Waln: Don't let politics get in way of our children's education (6/30)
Leonard Peltier: My last best hope for freedom lies with Obama (6/30)
White Mountain Apache Tribe welcomes 'significant' discovery (6/30)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes press for water deal (6/30)
Donald Trump approved Indian gaming attack ads in New York (6/30)
Judge focuses on Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino decision (6/30)
Buena Vista Rancheria signs updated Class III casino compact (6/30)
Effort builds for missing and murdered Native women and girls (6/29)
Native talent among diverse group asked to join film academy (6/29)
Richard Peterson: New era of tribal-state cooperation in Alaska (6/29)
Mark Trahant: A Native champion on the ballot in South Dakota (6/29)
Lakota Country Times: Outdoor movies a success at Pine Ridge (6/29)
Delphine Red Shirt: American history ignores tribal perspective (6/29)
Gabe Galanda: The growing chorus against tribal disenrollment (6/29)
Woman from Crow Tribe dies after brutal attack on reservation (6/29)
Man charged with murdering girlfriend on Fort Peck Reservation (6/29)
Nooksack Tribe fires elder who spoke out against disenrollment (6/29)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gets ready for 95th annual powwow (6/29)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation members serve on city commission (6/29)
A Tribe Called Red goes to Alaska next month for Native benefit (6/29)
Sorry but DNA tests cannot confirm a person's Native ancestry (6/29)
Church denies connection to vandalism at Otomi site in Mexico (6/29)
Former Choctaw Nation casino worker gets two months for theft (6/29)
Tohono O'odham Nation shares $1.2M from controversial casino (6/29)
Grande Ronde Tribes consider hotel but not a casino at old track (6/29)
Meskwaki Tribe looks for fugitive reportedly seen at casino hotel (6/29)
Supreme Court puts an end to another tribal jurisdiction dispute (6/28)
Native women hail Supreme Court decision on domestic violence (6/28)
Navajo Nation leaders reflect on historic Supreme Court session (6/28)
Lakota Country Times: Runners take 500-mile Black Hills journey (6/28)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican drops out of race for Congress (6/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must update its constitution (6/28)
Editorial: Lakota treaty council supported work at Wounded Knee (6/28)
Alex Jacobs: Our elected leaders do little to address gun violence (6/28)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe ousts 10 people from rolls amid debate (6/28)
Film exposes police harassment of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (6/28)
Northern Arapaho Tribe asserts more control over health system (6/28)
Trump rehashes 'Pocahontas' slur as Warren hits road for Clinton (6/28)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation still fighting for recognition and casino (6/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino foes lose big source of funding (6/28)
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.