A McGuireWoods environmental litigation team’s opposition to a consent decree by the U.S. and Oklahoma governments in which two major polluters would pay only $15 million of an Oklahoma Superfund site cleanup bill estimated at more than $500 million is drawing national attention.
The team, led by Los Angeles – Downtown office managing partner Greg Evans, intervened on April 28 on behalf of mining client Asarco to challenge a consent decree that would settle the federal and state governments’ lawsuit against NL Industries Inc. and Doe Run Resources Corp.
Asarco, which has paid more than $57 million to the federal government for recovery costs at northeastern Oklahoma’s Tar Creek Superfund site, claims the proposed settlement is unfair and inconsistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
Even though NL Industries and Doe Run “are demonstrably responsible for the vast and massive environmental devastation currently spoiling” the Tar Creek site, the two parties “propose to walk away from all cleanup obligations for what is obviously only a fraction of their rightful responsibility,” Evans asserts in Asarco’s petition.
“Asarco is committed to bringing all of the evidence before the court to show that the proposed consent decree is not fair, reasonable or consistent with the policy objectives of CERCLA,” Evans said in a May 2 Law360 article.
Under the decree, NL would pay only $6.8 million and Doe Run would pay about $3.5 million in cleanup costs, while the U.S. Department of the Interior would contribute $5 million. Asarco notes that the government provided no documentation establishing complete remediation costs in a bid to justify its “bargain buy-out with selective and outdated cost estimates.”
Lead and zinc mining for most of the 20th century contaminated the Tar Creek site.