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Teck admits to polluting river over course of century
Vancouver-based company Teck Resources announced today that it has come to an agreement in which it admits to almost a century of pollution in the Upper Columbia River through its Trail operations.
Spokesman Richard Deane said the agreement is actually good news for Teck.
"This litigation will ultimately what restoration, if any, is needed to restore natural resources injured by historic Trail operations discharge of slag and effluent," Deane said. "We're very happy to have reached this agreement with Colville tribes and the State of Washington because it avoids a costly trial that was scheduled to start today."
He said today's agreement refers to a timeframe spanning 1896 and 1995, and the agreement will likely find the court siding with the plaintiffs, thus deeming Teck liable for response costs. He said this is the first of a multi-step process that includes scientific evaluation of any environmental injury done.
"Teck is currently funding remedial investigations and feasibility studies for the Upper Columbia River in Washington State based on a 2006 agreement with the U.S. EPA," he said. "The studies are designed to examine the nature and extent of risks to human health or the environment and determine actions required to mitigate any unacceptable risks."
He said the studies, which won't be completed until 2015, will also determine what action is most appropriate.
"The results to date are encouraging," he said. "They show the beaches are safe and the water quality is better than any standard, state or federal."
He said it’s then up to a, “subsequent phase in the court process to determine if any restoration of natural resources is required or whether a payment for response costs in required.”
The press release in its entirety reads as follows:
Teck Resources Limited (TSX: TCK.A and TCK.B, NYSE: TCK) (“Teck”) announced today that Teck Metals Ltd. (“TML”) has entered into an agreement regarding certain facts with the plaintiffs in Pakootas et al v. Teck Metals Ltd. in civil proceedings under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). The effect of the agreement is to avoid the need for a trial over technical issues in the liability phase of the case. Despite the agreement, important scientific issues, as well as jurisdictional and other legal issues relating to the case remain to be resolved.
The agreement stipulates that some portion of the slag discharged from Teck’s Trail Operations into the Columbia River between 1896 and 1995, and some portion of the effluent discharged from Trail Operations, have been transported to and are present in the Upper Columbia River in the United States, and that some hazardous substances from the slag and effluent have been released into the environment within the United States. These facts are expected to provide the minimum requirements to allow the court to find in favour of the plaintiffs on their claim for a declaratory judgment that TML is liable under CERCLA for response costs, the amount of which will be determined in a subsequent phase of the case. The subsequent hearing, with respect to claims for natural resource damages and costs, is expected to be deferred while the remedial investigation and feasibility study with respect to environmental conditions in the Upper Columbia River are completed. That study, being undertaken by Teck American Incorporated (“TAI”) pursuant to a 2006 agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is currently expected to be completed in 2015.
TAI continues to work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the State, the Tribes and others on studies in the Upper Columbia River, which to date have generally shown that the water in the river system meets applicable water quality standards in both Canada and the United States, that the beaches are safe for recreational activities, and that the fish in the river system are as safe or safer to eat than fish in other water bodies in Washington State. TAI has commissioned a study by experts in natural resource damage assessment and on the basis of that study it estimates that the compensable value of any damage will not be material.
Teck continues to work cooperatively with regulators to complete its investigation of environmental conditions in the Upper Columbia River. Today, metals in discharges from Trail Operations are much lower than naturally occurring metals loads in the Columbia River. While the slag historically deposited in the river has been shown to release small quantities of metals under certain conditions, it is generally inert.
There can be no assurance that TML will ultimately be successful in its defense of the litigation, or that Teck or its affiliates will not be faced with further liability in relation to this matter. Until the studies described above and additional damage assessments are completed it is not possible to estimate the extent and cost, if any, of any remediation or restoration that may be required, or to fully assess TML’s potential liability for damages. The studies may conclude, on the basis of risk, cost, technical feasibility or other grounds, that no remediation should be undertaken. If remediation is required and damage to resources found, the cost of remediation may be material.
This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and forward-looking information as defined in the Securities Act (Ontario). Forward-looking statements include statements regarding Teck’s expectations regarding the outcome of the Upper Columbia River litigation, estimates of compensable damage and future potential liability of TML, and estimated timing of completion of the remedial investigation and feasibility study with respect to the Upper Columbia River. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause actual results to be materially different from any future result expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.
These forward looking statements are based on certain assumptions. Factors that may cause actual results to vary include, but are not limited to, unanticipated results of future sampling and scientific analysis, difficulties in obtaining permits for future sampling programs or disagreements with regulatory authorities, unanticipated changes in law or appeals, reversals, or other developments in the litigation itself. Teck does not assume the obligation to revise or update these forward-looking statements after the date of this document or to revise them to reflect the occurrence of future unanticipated events, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.
Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal, zinc and energy. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, its shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbols TCK.A and TCK.B and the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TCK.