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El Paso Natural Gas Co. LLC v. U.S.

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20106
Nos. CV-14-08165-PCT-DGC, (D. Ariz., 08/15/2017)

A district court held that a natural gas company can seek contribution from the federal government for uranium contamination cleanup under CERCLA. The company filed suit against the federal government for contribution for costs incurred cleaning up 19 former uranium mines on a Navajo reservation as an owner or operator. The government maintained that though it does hold fee title to the land, it is not an owner within the meaning of CERCLA as the Navajo Nation has exclusive possession of the land. The court held that though the tribe has possession of the land, the federal government still exercises a fair amount of control over the land, including the power to enter, control alienation, and take. Since CERCLA obligates the court to construe "owner" liberally, the court concluded that the federal government is an owner for purposes of CERCLA.