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
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