Monday, January 31, 2011

El Paso Natural Gas Company v. USA

Jan 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case Nos. 10-5080 & 10-5090. The case concerns two sites on Navajo tribal lands that the Navajo Nation alleges were contaminated by World War II and Cold War era uranium mining. Pursuant to the Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation and Control Act (UMTRCA), which created a mechanism to cleanup after such activities, the Navajo Nation asked the Department of Energy to remediate both sites. The department refused, and the district court declined to review that decision, relying on a provision of UMTRCA stating that "designations made, and priorities established, by the Secretary under this section shall be final and not subject to judicial review." The Appeals Court affirmed the district court decision saying, ". . .this action falls squarely within UMTRCA's bar on judicial review. . ." 
    The Appeals Court said the Navajo Nation. urged the court to employ the "canon of statutory interpretation directing courts to liberally construe statutes in favor of Native Americans." The Appeals Court said, "This canon, however, has force only where a statute is ambiguous. . . and as we have explained, section 7912(d), read in light of UMTRCA's other provisions, is unambiguous."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).