Teck Cominco stands firm on offer to EPA to fund $13M (U.S.) in ecological studiesTeck Cominco Metals last week reiterated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have jurisdiction over its Canadian lead zinc smelter in Trail, B.C. The Vancouver-based company was responding to a deadline imposed by the EPA after it abruptly terminated negotiations on Teck Cominco's offer to address the potential impact of metals in sediments in Lake Roosevelt, located in Washington State.
In November, through its U.S. affiliate Teck Cominco American, the company voluntarily offered to provide $13 million (U.S.) worth of research studies to assess human health and ecological concerns relating to Lake Roosevelt. The proposal called for a legally enforceable agreement to undertake human health and ecological risk assessment studies of metals residues in Lake Roosevelt and to provide for remediation in cases where the risk assessment determines remediation to be appropriate. The company further offered to pay the cost of EPA oversight and for participation by various parties. Teck Cominco American estimated the total cost at $8 million (U.S.) for the studies and another $5 million (U.S.) for regulatory oversight.
The offer-endorsed by the Eastern Washington Council of Governments, representing seven Lake Roosevelt area counties-was rejected by EPA Region 10, which insisted that Teck Cominco Metals sign an agreement under the U.S. Superfund law (CERCLA, the Comprehensive Environmental Reclamation and Compensation Liability Act) recognizing jurisdiction of the U.S. law over its Canadian operation.
David Thompson, deputy chairman and CEO of Teck Cominco Metals, wrote to the EPA pointing out that as Canadian company, his firm is not subject to CERCLA, and urged the Agency to reconsider the offer. "Lake Roosevelt represents a unique opportunity for environmental co-operation between our two countries," he wrote.
Company officials said the Canadian government has advised Teck Cominco of its opposition to the application of U.S. domestic laws in Canada and has formally expressed its concern to the U.S. government over the attempt by the EPA to impose its regulations on a Canadian company operating within Canada. A similar cross-border issue in the late 1920s led to a bilateral referral to the International Joint Commission.
"There is no precedent, nor the legal right for the EPA to apply its regulations on a company operating legally in Canada," Doug Horswill, Teck Cominco's senior vice-president for environment and public affairs, stated. "One can imagine the outrage in the U.S. if the Canadian government attempted to impose its own regulations on a company operating legally in the U.S."
The company's offer to fund research and remediation, he added, "would meet all the standards required of any company and would provide for full oversight by the EPA. We stand by our offer to work co-operatively with the EPA on solutions to impacts on Lake Roosevelt attributable to our B.C. facility."
Details on Teck Cominco American's offer to the EPA may be viewed on the company's Web site, www.teckcominco.com. More information is also available from Doug Horswill, 604/844-2655.