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Nu-West Mining Inc. v. United States

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20120
Nos. No. 4:CV 09-431-BLW, (D. Idaho, 03/04/2011)

A district court held that the United States is an arranger and operator under CERCLA with regard to the waste disposal sites at four phosphate mines in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The United States conditioned its approval of mine plans on requiring the lessees to perform specific reclamation activities at the mine sites, which included covering the waste dumps with a layer of middle waste shale as a growth medium. Unfortunately, the waste shale contained selenium, a hazardous substance, and it leached into the environment. The government meets all the criteria as an arranger. It owned the source of the hazardous substance—the middle waste shale. It also had the authority to control the disposal of the mining waste on the land it owned in the forest, since no mining or waste disposal could occur without its approval. It also exercised actual control over the disposal by requiring its lessees to cover the outer surface of the waste dumps with a layer of middle waste shale. Similarly, the government is an operator under CERCLA, as the record shows conclusively that the government was managing the design and location of the waste dumps for the four mines. The court, therefore, granted the mining company's motion for partial summary judgment.