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United States v. Atlantic-Richfield Co.

ELR Citation: 10 ELR 20089
Nos. No. CV 78-80-M, 478 F. Supp. 1215/(D. Mont., 11/01/1979)

The court denies a motion to dismiss a suit brought by the United States for injunctive and compensatory relief against emissions fromdefendants' aluminum reduction plant which settle upon the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park. Acknowledging that the United States, as the proprietor of federal lands, has the same right to protect such lands through common law actions as does any other property owner, the court notes that this right can be defeated by an act of Congress, specifically the Clean Air Act. It concludes, however, that Congress did not intend the Act to preclude the bringing of common law actions by the federal government. There is some merit to defendants' argument that because the Act's citizen suit provision expressly preserves the right of citizens to bring common law actions the provision could be interpreted to destroy whatever common law rights of action the government may have had before enactment of the statute. Nevertheless, the court concludes that such a construction would conflict with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the citizen suit provision in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and would violate the rule that statutes are not to be construed to limit the rights of the government absent a clear expression of such an intent. The motion to dismiss is therefore denied, and the order is certified for interlocutory review by the court of appeals.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Robert T. O'Leary, U.S. Attorney
173 Fed. Bldg., 400 N. Main, Butte MT 59701
(406) 723-6561

James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General; Steven A. Herman, David Waters, David C. Cannon Jr.
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2741

Counsel for Defendants
John F. Newpert
Miller, Anderson, Nash, Yerke & Wiener
900 S.W. Fifth Ave., Missoula MT 97204
(503) 224-5858