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Mathes v. Vulcan Materials Co.

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20207
Nos. No. 2006-229, (D.V.I., 08/21/2009)

A district court held that it lacks jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Virgin Islands natural resources commissioner against two chemical companies for negligence, strict liability, and nuisance in connection with the contamination of an aquifer that was once a significant source of drinking water for the commonwealth. The companies are the manufacturers and suppliers of chemicals used by dry cleaning operators. The commissioner argued that the companies failed to adequately warn those operators of the dangers posed by those chemicals and that the companies' tortious conduct caused the contamination of the aquifer. He filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the matter without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction so that the case would no longer be held in federal court. The companies argued that the case should remain in federal court because the claims are preempted by CERCLA. But CERCLA does not provide a federal cause of action vindicating the same interests sought to be vindicated by the claims asserted against the companies in the complaint. Nor does the complaint raise substantial and disputed questions of federal law under CERCLA sufficient to confer federal jurisdiction.