The U.S. Justice Department has reached a record $5.15 billion settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the cleanup of thousands of long-contaminated mining sites nationwide. An estimated $1 billion will go to the Navajo Nation for the cleanup of 50 contaminated mine sites on the country’s largest American Indian reservation in northeastern Arizona.
The settlement resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a spin-off of Kerr-McGee Corp. Anadarko acquired Tronox in 2006. The acquisition made Anadarko financially responsible for the settlement. Kerr-McGee Corp. shifted the liabilities between 2002 and 2006 into Tronox so that the company retained its valuable oil and gas assets. This settlement will also cover damages plus attorney’s fees from a U.S. bankruptcy judge’s decision finding Kerr-McGee improperly shifted its environmental liabilities to Tronox. The federal government decided the settlement amount was more than enough to cover the damages.
Kerr-McGee was founded in 1929 and has a long legacy of environmental contamination. In addition to the radioactive waste damage to the Navajo Nation’s lands, the company polluted Lake Mead in Nevada with rocket fuel and dumped carcinogenic creosote in communities throughout the country’s East, South and Midwest. The federal government accused Kerr-McGee of attempting to pass its responsibility of cleanup onto the United States taxpayers.
The contamination of Navajo lands caused death and disease on the reservation. The mountainous land is used by Navajo medicine men to gather plants and herbs for prayer and healing purposes. Families also use the land for sheep and as an area for summer camps. Uranium waste was thrown over the mountainside and spread by the elements.
The bulk of the settlement, $4.4 billion, will be used to cleanup legacy contamination sites in 22 states.
Kerr-McGee exhibited a blatant lack of concern of the lands they were mining on and the long-term effect on the lands and people of the surrounding communities. PG&E is now facing criminal charges due to their violations of the federal Pipeline Safety Act.
If you have been injured by a company’s environmental safety negligence, please contact the lawyers at Watts Guerra.