Judge Says Tribes Can Seek River Pollution Damages

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Judge Says Tribes Can Seek River Pollution Damages

In a riveting legal saga, a Washington federal judge has rebuffed a bid by a Teck Resources Ltd. unit for summary judgment in the face of natural resource damages claims brought forth by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the state of Washington. The allegations center on decades of pollution in the Upper Columbia River emanating from a smelter in Trail, British Columbia, setting the stage for a potential courtroom showdown.

Judge Says Tribes Can Seek River Pollution Damages : Denial Sparks Legal Duel

Teck Resources argued vehemently for the dismissal of claims, contending that the tribes and the state failed to establish natural resource damages under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The company asserted that the wide-ranging estimated costs to restore parts of the river were too uncertain, ranging from a staggering $315 million up to $413 million.

However, Chief U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian delivered a stunning blow to Teck’s argument. On Wednesday, Judge Bastian refuted the company’s claims, asserting that CERCLA does not mandate the processes Teck argued were necessary.

Litigation Tactics Unveiled

According to Judge Bastian’s order, the tribes and state opted for a natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) through litigation experts rather than a public administrative process. The judge emphasized that the process Teck claimed they did not follow is not mandatory.