Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Court Nixes Complaint Over Superfund Site

(CN) - The Court of Federal Claims dismissed a lawsuit accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of illegally taking private land by cleaning up a superfund site in the 1980s.

In 1991, the site operator, John Hutchens, and his business partner, T.W. Arman, filed suit on behalf of Iron Mountain Mines, the company stuck with clean-up costs.

The two men delivered a 267-page "manifesto" claiming that the EPA illegally entered their mining site near Redding, Calif., in January 1989 to clear mining waste. Clean-up efforts dashed the value of their property in violation of the Constitution, they claimed. The company sought $7 billion from the U.S. government for loss of the minerals it could have been extracting from the site since 1989.

The pro se complaint was filed 14 years late, the claims court ruled, and failed to allege valid claims in the first place.

Judge Christine Odell Cook Miller dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, saying it also fell well outside the six-year statute of limitations.

Plaintiffs could not claim Fifth Amendment violations unless the underlying action - EPA remediation - was legal. By challenging the EPA's right to be there in the first place, the plaintiffs undermined their illegal taking claim, the ruling states.

Miller added that challenges to EPA actions belong in the district court.

Last July, the claims court ordered the plaintiffs to clarify their ownership rights in the land so it could look at the legality of EPA remedial action.

"Rather than comply with this order, plaintiffs filed a doppelganger of their first amended complaint," Miller wrote. They reworked the complaint to focus on Fifth Amendment violations, "leaving defendant and the court with an otherwise nonsensical diatribe," Miller said.

Coupled with the dismissal, the company could face sanctions for filing an unintelligible complaint.

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