Thursday, July 02, 2009

GoldFISHER... The Waste with the Supreme Court Touch

Ok, that title is horrible.

BUT, so (seemingly) is the Supreme Court decision in Coeur Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. AND, the seeming complete LACK of analysis of this decision anywhere other than The Colbert Report. (If you can find some other good analyses, please let us at the Continuum know.)

From Colbert and quick skimming of other sources, it seems to be that a gold company in Alaska got permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to dispose of "tailings" from a gold mine but filling up a lake of a depth of 75 ft or so to a depth of 74 ft, killing (of course) everything in the lake, what with the lake becoming a "kiddie pool" and the toxic nature of the "tailings."

Apparently, the issue was: the gold mine waste is technically "fill" and "fill" is under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, not the EPA, which only has jurisdiction of "waste". So the toxic fill could be used to fill up the lake because it wasn't toxic waste, but toxic fill. Somehow involved in this was a Bush Administration regulation (I believe they changed it so that "fill" was no longer covered by the EPA, but I could be off on that), and the Court ruled that it should give deference to the EPA's own interpretation of its regulations, such that apparently filling up a lake with toxic fill isn't the same as filling it up with toxic waste. (This seems to me to clash with Scalia's untenuous philosophy of using only the "plain sense meaning" of laws, but whatever.)

I'd really like to read more in depth analysis of this case, but it seems to be lacking. I guess we're too busy with celebrity deaths, strip-searching teenagers, and firefighters.

Actual SCOTUS decision is here.

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