So these Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) peeps sure do like SCOTUS, they’ve been here three god damn times, completely unrelated to each other. Not important, just thought I’d point that out.
Anyway, ARCO bought up Anaconda Smelter back in 1977. Anaconda Smelter had been in business for nearly 100 years making copper and shit. As a result, they used a lot of harsh-ass chemicals, which they conveniently disposed of in ways that would have environmentalist’s heads explode. They just dumped that shit into the ground.
ARCO ended those operations three years later. However, the people who live in that area, have some fucked up ground water and shit, from 100 years of smelting by Anaconda. And now that Anaconda is owned by ARCO, they want paid.
ARCO has seemingly been pretty cool in this. They didn’t fight the argument from the people that Anaconda had done them wrong, and were largely willing to pay damages. They also worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the site as best they could according to EPA guidelines.
But, people see a big energy company on the ropes, they see dollar signs, and they want money always. So they decided to go after ARCO for “restoration” damages as well, which basically means they want money to fix up their land, which was damaged by Anaconda, over and above what ARCO was doing with the EPA.
So ARCO was like, “Hold on you motherfuckers. We’re working with the EPA to get your shit cleaned up, and they set the rules. Whatever it is you assholes want from us over and above what we’re doing with the EPA is your own personal bullshit. We have nothing to do with that, and we aren’t responsible for it.”
ARCO also argued that complying with the wishes of these selfish assholes would violate the EPA’s rules, putting them in a position where they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
The people in Montana however, who are suing, are like, “Fuck the EPA, this is our land, not theirs. Who the fuck do they think they are to tell us what’s best for our land? Is this America or Communist Russia?”
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) is a law passed by congress for shit just like this. And it largely gives the EPA authority on how to handle such shit, so ARCO was basically saying that the EPA is the arbiter here, not the courts. But the people want paid, and as usual, the courts cannot agree, so here we are at SCOTUS to sort this shit out.
SCOTUS, in a 7-2 decision, decided that the Montana Supreme Court fucked up arguing that landowners were not potentially responsible under CERCLA, and didn’t need the EPA to approve shit for them to act.
SCOTUS also decided unanimously that it had the authority to review the Montana Supreme Court’s judgement, since that judgement can be considered to be a final judgement.
They also decided that CERCLA, a federal regulation, doesn’t strip Montana Supreme Court of their jurisdiction in the matter. So it should have made a fucking decision, and not wasted SCOTUS’ time.
Hear oral arguments and read about the case here.