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ASARCO, LLC v. Noranda Mining, Inc.

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20005
Nos. 16-4045, (10th Cir., 01/03/2017)

The Tenth Circuit reversed a district court ruling that barred a mining company from pursuing a CERCLA contribution claim for the Lower Silver Creek/Richardson Flat site because of representations it made to a bankruptcy court concerning its settlement agreement with EPA. In 2009, as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the mining company, Asarco. settled to pay its "fair share" of liability at the site. In 2013, the company sought contribution from a second mining company, Noranda, for cleanup costs. The district court held that Asarco was judicially estopped from seeking contribution from Noranda and granted Noranda's motion for summary judgment. The appellate court disagreed, stating that CERCLA allows a party to settle for an inexact amount and later seek contribution from other responsible parties for any amounts overpaid. Furthermore, to allow Asarco's contribution suit would not give the impression that the bankruptcy court was misled. The case was remanded for proceedings consistent with the opinion.