U.S. Supreme Court Supports Colville Tribes

Highest U.S. Court Denies Teck Cominco Request to Hear Columbia River Case

Jan 07, 2008, 00:00 ET from Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

    NESPELEM, Wash., Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the Confederated
 Tribes of the Colville Reservation, a panel of U.S. Supreme Court justices
 today denied a petition for certiorari filed by Canadian mining giant Teck
 Cominco Metals following a series of decisions from lower courts that
 consistently ruled against the company.
     In rejecting Teck's request for review, the Court let stand the federal
 appeals court decision that the Canadian company must comply with U.S. laws
 that hold polluters accountable for the contamination they create within
 the United States.
     "We are of course very pleased with this decision," said Virgil
 Seymour, a member of the Colville Business Council. "As the case now
 stands, the courts have ruled that the U.S. has jurisdiction over Teck
 Cominco under the United States' Superfund law for the pollution it created
 in the U.S."
     The original lawsuit arose from Teck Cominco's refusal to comply with
 U.S. laws to study the contaminants released by the mining company in and
 around Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia River. For nearly 100 years,
 Teck Cominco's Trail, B.C. smelter discharged more than 20 million tons of
 slag and wastes that contained metals like lead, zinc, mercury, arsenic and
 other toxins. The smelter is located just a few miles north of the U.S.
 border on the Columbia River.
     "The law, the facts and moral principles are clearly on our side," said
 Seymour. "Teck Cominco is responsible for contaminating the United States
 and should be held accountable for cleaning up its mess to U.S. and Tribal
     On July 16, 2004, tribal leaders Joseph Pakootas and D.R. Michel filed
 suit against Teck Cominco Metals. Supported by the Colville Business
 Council and the state of Washington, the lawsuit aimed to force compliance
 with a federal EPA Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to study
 contamination in and around Lake Roosevelt.
     Teck Cominco and the EPA have since signed a private settlement
 agreement to investigate contamination at the site, but progress has been
     "The Tribe is not a party to this agreement and we don't have
 confidence in it because it is outside the framework of U.S. environmental
 law," Seymour continued. "The reality is that after two years of work,
 there's been little progress made. We still don't understand the extent of
 contamination or its impacts on the environment, Tribal members or other
 people here."
     The case will be returned to the Ninth Circuit and remanded to the
 district court of the Eastern District of Washington for further
     "The Tribe looks forward to continuing this case and will do everything
 we can to force Teck Cominco to accept its responsibilities under U.S.
 law," said Seymour.
     A hearing or scheduling conference has not yet been scheduled.
     The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation is a sovereign
 nation and a federally recognized American Indian Tribe. Today, over 9,000
 descendants of 12 aboriginal tribes of Indians are enrolled in the Colville
 Tribes. The Colville Reservation land base covers 1.4 million acres located
 in north central Washington and is diverse with natural resources including
 standing timber, streams, rivers, lakes, minerals, varied terrain, native
 plants and wildlife.

SOURCE Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation