your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
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 Government attorneys said the dispute over the Superfund law is no longer an issue because the EPA has withdrawn the cleanup order as part of a settlement with Teck Cominco.

"Now that EPA has withdrawn that order, respondents' citizen-suit claims -- the only claims considered by the lower courts -- are moot," Solicitor Paul D. Clement wrote in the 26-page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 -
Teck Cominco -
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project -

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:
Native Sun News: Family questions FBI on reservation death (11/25)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud students earn top scholarship (11/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Making a difference for people on Pine Ridge (11/25)
Yurok Tribe: Mourning the passing of 'visionary' Troy Fletcher (11/25)
Ned Blackhawk: Supreme Court case jeopardizes tribal rights (11/25)
Steve Russell: The real origins of the world's terrorism crisis (11/25)
Ramona Peters: Sharing a Wampanoag story of Thanksgiving (11/25)
Yatibaey Evans: Let's all teach the truth about Native history (11/25)
Martie Simmons: Every Native parent dreads this time of year (11/25)
Eric Metaxas: The 'miracle' of Squanto and first Thanksgiving (11/25)
Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to late Billy Frank Jr (11/25)
Oneida Nation opens first branch location of tribal-owned bank (11/25)
Virginia tribes continue to pay tribute required by 1677 treaty (11/25)
Chukchansi Tribe reaches new agreement for shuttered casino (11/25)
Poarch Band to welcome visitors to $65M expansion at casino (11/25)
Stillaguamish Tribe debuts eatery and microbrewery at casino (11/25)
Connecticut tribes consider proposals for third gaming facilty (11/25)
Mark Pilarski: Why are games different at some tribal casinos? (11/25)
Tribes seek support for Native language instruction programs (11/24)
Rep. Mullin confirms divisions in Indian Country on Carcieri fix (11/24)
President Obama to award Medal of Freedom to Billy Frank Jr. (11/24)
Sault Tribe pushes for passage of Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (11/24)
Lakota Country Times: Charles Trimble recognized for writings (11/24)
Native Sun News Editorial: Some new names in Indian Country (11/24)
Jim Kent: South Dakota lands in the news again for corruption (11/24)
John Yellowbird Steele: Bill tries to hijack recognition process (11/24)
Albert Bender: 'The Green Inferno' hits new low in racist films (11/24)
Peter d'Errico: Anti-Indian wars continue in US Supreme Court (11/24)
Anne Keala Kelly: US government wants to steal Hawaii again (11/24)
Counties ask Supreme Court to hear Ute Tribe boundary case (11/24)
Shinnecock Nation considers entering medical marijuana field (11/24)
USDA policy eases return of traditional food to tribal facilities (11/24)
Sitka Tribe asks FBI to consider racial bias in student's arrest (11/24)
Court sides with Indian inmates over closure of sweat lodge (11/24)
Former employee accused of cheating Grand Traverse Band (11/24)
Tribes with special acts of Congress face hurdles for gaming (11/24)
Enterprise Rancheria addresses concerns about gaming site (11/24)
Mohegan Tribe signs partner for $5B casino proposal in Korea (11/24)
Bart Hinkle: States trying to protect their gaming monopolies (11/24)
Blackfeet Nation wins ruling against development at sacred site (11/23)
Center for Native American Youth hires new executive director (11/23)
Quinault Nation slams approval of genetically modified salmon (11/23)
Native Sun News: Great Plains people key in defeating Keystone (11/23)
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.