U.S. Supreme Court Supports Colville Tribes
Highest U.S. Court Denies Teck Cominco Request to Hear Columbia River Case
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 standards." 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 disappointing. "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 proceedings. "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
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