The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
are not liable under the Superfund
law, a federal judge in Washington ruled.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act requires "persons" who pollute sites to clean them up. The definition of "persons" includes "an individual, firm, corporation, association, partnership, consortium, joint venture, commercial entity, United States government, state, municipality, commission, political subdivision of a state or any interstate body."
Tribal governments are not covered by the definition of "persons" nor has their sovereign immunity been waived by Congress, Judge Lonny R. Suko ruled. That means the Colville Tribes can't be required to contribute to cleanup costs associated with pollution on the Columbia River.
The tribes have nothing to do with a mine that operates upstream on the river in British Columbia, Canada. Teck Cominco
, a Canadian company that owns the mine, argued the tribes should bear some costs of the cleanup due to pollution that ends up on the reservation.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
has ruled that Teck Cominco can be held liable for pollution in the U.S. even though the company's mine is based in Canada. The Supreme Court
declined to review Teck Cominco v. Pakootas
Get the Story:
Court Ruling Exempts Tribes From CERCLA Liability
(Northwest Hub 9/2)