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Anderson v. Teck Metals, Ltd.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20010
Nos. CV-13-420-LRS, (E.D. Wash., 01/05/2015) (Suko, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit against a Canadian mining company for allegedly causing individuals residing near the Upper Columbia River to suffer various health diseases due to toxic and hazardous air emissions from the company's smelter. In a matter of first impression, the court held that CERCLA, by itself, is sufficient to displace a federal common-law public nuisance claim for damages. Through CERCLA, Congress has provided a comprehensive liability and remediation scheme to address releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances by making polluters strictly liable for cleanup response costs, and liable for natural resource damages to remedy harm to the environment for which they are responsible. The court therefore dismissed the individuals' common law public nuisance claims for damages because they failed to state a federal claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition, their state-law public nuisance claims fail because Washington's state public nuisance statute cannot be applied extraterritorially to the company's smelting activities in Canada. But the court denied the company's motion to dismiss to the extent it sought dismissal based on causation. The individuals' complaint sets forth allegations plausibly establishing that the company's emissions are the proximate cause of the diseases suffered by them. The court also rejected the company's claims that the case should be dismissed based on the statute of limitations and lack of personal jurisdiction.