Highest U.S. Court Denies Teck Cominco Request to Hear Columbia River Case
NESPELEM, Wash., Jan. 7 /CNW/ -- 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
"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 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,"
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.
For further information:
For further information: Andrei Mylroie of Desautel Hege Communications,
+1-509-444-2350, firstname.lastname@example.org, for Confederated Tribes of the