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In re Gold King Mine Release in San Juan County, Colorado on August 5, 2015

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20037
Nos. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, (D.N.M., 02/28/2019) (Johnson, J.)

A district court denied EPA's motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two states and a Native American tribe seeking to recover response costs from the 2015 Gold King mine spill that sent millions of gallons of acid mine drainage into the Animas and San Juan Rivers. EPA argued that it retained sovereign immunity when responding to a release or threat of release of a hazardous substance caused by others. But the court concluded that the plain language of CERCLA waived the agency's sovereign immunity. EPA also argued that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for relief under CERCLA. But the court found that plaintiffs stated claims for (1) operator liability by alleging that the Agency managed, directed, or conducted operations specifically related to pollution; (2) arranger liability by alleging that the Agency took intentional steps to dispose of a hazardous substance; and (3) transporter liability by alleging that the Agency took steps to drain the mine and treat the water at the site. It therefore denied EPA's motions to dismiss.