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Court rules that company must pay uranium clean-up costs

Company held liable for uranium clean up costs on Navajo Nation

Tribal officials applaud court decision
By Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times Farmington — The Navajo Nation is among those hoping a recent court decision will provide millions of dollars to clean up areas impacted by uranium mining and milling activities.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper decided last Thursday that Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is liable for billions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs, including uranium mines and mills that were once operated on the Navajo Nation by the Kerr-McGee Corp. However, Anadarko officials say the decision is not final and have indicated they will appeal.

Uranium mining started on tribal lands in 1944 to provide a source for atomic power. Over the years, that activity left more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kerr-McGee started mining and milling uranium in Arizona’s Lukachukai Mountains in 1952 and eventually built a 77-acre uranium disposal cell in Shiprock, which the company operated from 1954 to 1963.

The company also operated numerous businesses that left a trail of contamination across the United States, including radioactive thorium in Illinois, rocket fuel waste in Nevada, and creosote waste in the Midwest, Northeast and South.

The court decision, issued in the Southern District of New York, found that Anadarko and Kerr-McGee acted with “intent to hinder” certain creditors, including the Navajo Nation, when the company fraudulently conveyed assets to Tronox Inc. to evade its debts, which included its liability for environmental clean-up at toxic sites across the country.

Tronox, a paint materials company, filed for bankruptcy in January 2009.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, Anadarko could pay between $5.1 billion and $14 billion for cleanup costs, with the Navajo Nation potentially receiving $880 million to $2.4 billion.

“Any funds resulting from this lawsuit are welcomed and long overdue,” Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said in a statement.

December 19, 2013 - Posted by | Legal, Uranium

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