“A debate over Montana landowners’ potential liability for toxic metals in their backyards, deposited over decades of smelting operations, dominated oral arguments involving the landowners, the U.S. EPA, and Atlantic Richfield Co. before the Supreme Court Dec. 3.
The court appeared reluctant to side with the landowners in Atlantic Richfield v. Christian, a major environmental cleanup case that could shake the Superfund program to its core. Justices on both ends of the ideological spectrum seemed troubled by the prospect of hindering landowner rights, but reluctant to interfere with the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority.
Montana’s Supreme Court previously allowed the landowners to proceed with their request for cleanup beyond what the EPA has authorized, as well as their request for Atlantic Richfield to pay the bill. The company brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”