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Beck v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

ELR Citation: 25 ELR 21483
Nos. No. 94-35487, 62 F.3d 1240/41 ERC 1193/(9th Cir., 08/17/1995)

The court holds that a district court lacked jurisdiction over water users' state-law claims for compensatory and injunctive relief against a mining company that EPA had ordered to divert water from the Clark Fork River in Montana to clean up mining wastes that the company's predecessor had discharged into the river. The water users had sued in state court about the defendant's diversion of water, which EPA had ordered under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as part of the defendant's cleanup. The defendant removed the case to the federal district court, where the case was dismissed. The court first holds that the water users do not allege a takings claim in the form of inverse condemnation, but rather expressly allege a cause of action based purely on state law. That the water users might have a takings claim against the United States for the defendant's diversion of water in conformity with the terms of the EPA's cleanup order would not in itself preclude the water users from having a state-law claim against the defendant for diversion other than in conformity with EPA's order. The court next holds that it lacks jurisdiction over the water users' damage claim. The claim does not challenge the CERCLA cleanup plan, but rather is based entirely on state law. The court notes that a compensatory remedy would not alter the cleanup order's terms and would not interfere with the defendant's implementation of the cleanup. The court holds that the district court lacks jurisdiction over the water users' injunctive relief claim, which is a challenge to the CERCLA cleanup effort. Section 113(h) precludes jurisdiction over that claim until the cleanup is completed. Finally, the court holds that the inclusion of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as a defendant destroys diversity under 28 U.S.C. §1332, because the water users claims are based solely on state law. The court vacates the district court's dismissal of the water users' claim for compensatory damages, and orders the district court to remand the case to state court.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Russ McElyea
Moore, O'Connell & Refling
Life of Montana Bldg.
601 Haggerty La., Ste. 10, Bozeman MT 59771
(406) 587-5511

Counsel for Defendants
John P. Davis
Poore, Roth & Robinson
1341 Harrison Ave., Butte MT 59701
(406) 782-1223

Before Browning, Wright and Nelson, JJ.