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United States v. Iron Mountain Mines

July 13, 2010



This matter comes before the Court on a motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. #1280) by Plaintiff the United States of America ("Plaintiff"), pursuant to Section 107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA") 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Defendants Iron Mountain Mines and T.W. Arman ("Defendants") oppose the motion.*fn1 (Doc. #1310). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff‟s motion is GRANTED.


Beginning in 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") responded to the release of hazardous waste at what is now called the Iron Mountain Mines Superfund Site ("the site"). The EPA took action to reduce or eliminate acid mine drainage discharges from the site, and incurred costs in doing so ("response costs").

The site has been the subject of litigation in this Court since 1991. In this motion, Plaintiff seeks only response costs incurred through February 29, 1996. Costs incurred after this date to the present, as well as future costs, were part of a previous settlement ("the settlement" or "consent decree") with former defendant Rhône-Poulenc and other settling parties. Defendants were not parties to that settlement, nonetheless Plaintiff does not seek recovery from Defendants for those post-February 29, 1996, costs covered by the settlement.

In 2002, this Court found Defendants to be a "partially responsible party" for the site contamination, and found them jointly and severally liable for response costs under CERCLA (Doc. #1241). Plaintiff settled with other defendants in the case, but Plaintiff and Defendants Iron Mountain Mines and T.W. Arman engaged in years of ultimately unsuccessful settlement negotiations. In August 2009, Plaintiff brought the present motion for partial summary judgment. In December 2009, Defendants sought reconsideration of the Court‟s 2002 order, on the issue of apportionment of liability. The motion for reconsideration was denied. (Doc. #1316). Thus, the Court‟s 2002 order stands, and Defendants remain jointly and severally liable for the entire harm at the site.

Plaintiff seeks a total award of $57,139,669.53 in costs. This includes response costs through February 29, 1996 ($26,968,134.84), plus prejudgment interest through Fiscal Year 2009 ($30,172,534.69).


A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). Because the purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses," Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986), "[i]f summary judgment is not rendered on the whole action, the court should, to the extent practicable, determine what material facts are not genuinely at issue." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden of production then shifts so that "the non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.‟" T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass‟n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The Court must view the facts and draw inferences in the manner most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

A "scintilla of evidence" is insufficient to support the non-moving party‟s position; "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Accordingly, this Court applies to either a defendant‟s or plaintiff‟s motion for summary judgment essentially the same standard as for a motion for directed verdict, which is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52.


Pursuant to CERCLA Section 107(a), an owner and operator of any facility at which hazardous substances were disposed shall be liable for all costs of removal or remedial actions incurred by the United States government, not inconsistent with the National Contingency Plan. 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a). CERCLA Section 107(a) is a strict liability statute. Burlington Northern v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 1870, 1878 (2009).

The purpose of the National Contingency Plan ("NCP") is "to provide the organizational structure and procedures for preparing for and responding to discharges of oil and releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants." 40 C.F.R. ยง 300.1. The NCP is required by Section 105 of CERCLA and section 311(d) of the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), and is ...

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