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Goodeagle v. United States

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20152
Nos. 12-431L et al., (Fed. Cl., 09/12/2016) (Wheeler, J.)

The Court of Federal Claims, in a case involving several claims arising out of the alleged federal mismanagement of tribal lands, held that CERCLA does not bar a tribe from seeking natural resource damages even though cleanup efforts at the site are not complete. The government argued CERCLA's bar on pre-enforcement review applied and therefore sought to have the claim dismissed on summary judgment. But CERCLA is in no way an adequate legal remedy. Cleanup began in 1984 and is estimated to be complete in approximately 2040. The tribe has experienced, and will continue to experience, measurable loss while cleanup is underway. In addition, contrary to what the government claims, damages are only recoverable under CERCLA for interim loss of use of the resource, not all loss. Many of the tribe's claims go beyond the loss of use of natural resources, such as the loss of rents, diminution of land value, and loss of traditional hunting practices. The question of whether these kinds of losses are recoverable during CERCLA cleanup efforts therefore cannot be resolved via summary judgment. Last, the court already ruled that the tribe's breach of trust claims are not preempted by CERCLA. The government's motion for summary judgment on this claim was therefore denied.