Idaho Federal District Court Rules in Favor of Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on FMC case

Chairman Nathan Small Photo courtesy of the Office of Public Affairs, 2017.

Published September 29, 2017

FORT HALL – On Thursday, the Idaho Federal District Court ruled that the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have the jurisdiction to enforce a Tribal Court Judgment against FMC Corporation for unpaid fees for FMC’s storage of hazardous waste on the Fort Hall Reservation.  The Tribes are pleased with the Federal Court’s well-reasoned decision recognizing the inherent sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal government over the FMC Corporation at its Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund site within the Reservation boundaries.

“The Tribes are committed to continuing their effort to protect and preserve the environment for the health and welfare of inhabitants.  The Tribes believe in protecting mother earth for all future generations,” comments to Nathan Small, Chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

FMC agreed in 1997 and again in 1998 that they would pay the Tribal hazardous waste storage fee as long as FMC stored hazardous waste within the Fort Hall Reservation. FMC paid the storage fee until the Pocatello plant closed in 2002. Even though FMC continued to store the waste within the Reservation, after it closed down it reneged on its agreement to pay the storage fee.

The Tribes file a lawsuit against FMC in 2005. Litigation has been ongoing since then and has been fought hard by both sides.

Thursday’s court ruling recognizes and enforces FMC’s promise to continue to pay the fee as long as FMC continues to store the hazardous waste within the Fort Hall Reservation.

The Court ruled some of the deadly hazardous wastes FMC is storing at the Superfund site include, but are not limited, to arsenic, reactive elemental phosphorous, chemical byproducts of elemental phosphorous, heavy metals, and many more hazardous wastes that are toxic, carcinogenic, and currently flowing into or towards the Portneuf River.

Studies reveal the FMC Superfund site also emits gamma radiation above background levels. In addition to the groundwater contamination and other toxins, the capped ponds also leak deadly gases such as phosphine, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen cyanide. Lastly, the Court recognized that EPA acknowledges there are also significant unknown dangers to human health and the environment at the FMC Superfund site.

FMC may appeal this decision to the 9th Circuit, but the Tribes are confident today’s decision will be upheld. The Fort Hall Business Council thanks the previous Business Council, tribal attorneys and staff that have diligently worked on this case.

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