Teck Resources, polluter headed toward day of reckoning

The Seattle Times
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Columbia polluter headed toward day of reckoning

FOR decades, Canadian smelter Teck Cominco used the Upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt as an industrial sewer, dumping millions of tons of heavy metals and slag into the water.

The company — now known as Teck Resources — has fought responsibility for the pollution and cleanup every inch of the way. Every sniffling excuse has been rebuffed in court with the equivalent of legal eye rolls. It happened again.

A federal judge dismissed the company’s attempt to shift and divide liability among a bunch of unspecified other polluters. Don’t blame us, the company’s lawyers, Quibble and Delay, argued. It was those guys.

Evasion of responsibility has been the standard tactic, and federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court have been unimpressed.

Decades of reckless toxic discharge from the smelter in Trail, B.C., just over the border, are heading for an accounting in federal court in September in Yakima. If the court puts the legal liability on Teck, the company could bear the full cost of cleanup.

The long fight to hold the company accountable was launched by two Colville tribal leaders, who were joined by the state.

Expect more efforts to seek delay, spread costs and share the blame, but the focus is being narrowed and headed toward a legal and financial reckoning.

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