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Superfund Allows Landowners’ Cleanup, Montanans Tell SCOTUS (1)

Oct. 16, 2019, 1:53 PMUpdated: Oct. 16, 2019, 6:17 PM

Federal Superfund law doesn’t stand in the way of Montana landowners’ request for their own cleanup at a contaminated site, the landowners told the Supreme Court in a brief Oct. 15.

About 100 people who own land in Opportunity, Mont., say Atlantic Richfield Co. is responsible for cleaning up smelter waste, including lead and arsenic, deposited on their properties through decades of copper smelting operations. Though the state’s high court allowed the landowners’ case to proceed, Atlantic Richfield asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take a closer look. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Dec. 3.

The company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have spent more than three decades cleaning up the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site, which includes the Opportunity properties. Landowners there say harmful amounts of heavy metals still remain on their properties, even after the EPA’s cleanup.

Atlantic Richfield “has not restored the land to its former bucolic glory,” the landowners argued in their response to the company’s Supreme Court brief. “No children frolic among acres of lush vegetation.”

Atlantic Richfield, which appealed the case to the Supreme Court, argued that federal Superfund law preempts state law. Allowing landowners to challenge EPA’s remedies under state law would throw the Superfund program into chaos, the company said.

Superfund law “supplements state efforts,” the landowners said in their response.

The landowners also argue the Supreme Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case, because the lower court didn’t make a final judgment.

The case is Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, U.S., No. 17-1498, response brief filed 10/15/19.

(Updates link to response brief.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Renee Schoof at