FORT HALL — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have the jurisdiction to impose a $1.5 million annual hazardous waste storage permit fee on the FMC Corporation for storing hazardous waste within the Fort Hall Reservation, according to a Friday ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
FMC agreed to pay the annual storage fees in 1998 but stopped paying them in 2002, when the FMC plant located on tribal land within Pocatello closed, according to a press release from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
The tribes filed a lawsuit to force FMC to resume payments and won the case in tribal court. FMC then appealed to federal court. The tribal court’s judgment against FMC was affirmed by the federal district court and was recently upheld by the 9th Circuit.
FMC will be required to pay the storage fees dating back to 2002, though no interest will be applied, according to the press release.
The tribes’ Waste Management Act mandates that the storage fees be used for environmental monitoring, compliance and cleanup.
“Today is a great day for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. We are very pleased with the 9th Circuit of Appeals ruling,” Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Ladd Edmo said in the press release. “I would like to commend our former tribal leaders, our Land Use Policy Commissioners, technical staff and legal team for all the years of hard work.”
FMC issued a statement in response to the ruling, expressing disappointment with the ruling but vowing to continue environmental remediation at the site.
“FMC is disappointed with this outcome and is reviewing the decision and considering its options,” the FMC statement reads. “FMC has made substantial progress working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the tribes and the State of Idaho to remediate the Pocatello plant site.”
FMC also vowed to continue to meet its environmental obligations at the site and to redevelop the property to benefit Southeast Idaho residents.
The tribes argued in their press that FMC’s storage of millions of tons of hazardous waste on the reservation “threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security or the health or welfare” of the tribes.
“The waste at FMC is toxic, reactive and presents a risk to our community,” Kelly Wright, the tribes’ environmental waste manager, said in the press release. “We are thankful the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes this risk and recognizes our jurisdiction. We can now work to fully implement our Hazardous Waste Main Act Regulations and develop safety monitoring and notification networks.”