A & W Smelter & Refiners, Inc. v. Clinton – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

A & W Smelter & Refiners, Inc. v. Clinton - Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In A & W Smelter & Refiners, Inc. v. Clinton, 146 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 1998), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) ordered A & W to dispose of an ore pile at its smelting facility because the pile contained quantities of naturally occurring lead and slag.

A & W complied and filed a complaint seeking reimbursement of its compliance costs under CERCLA. Id. at 1109. The district court granted summary judgment for the EPA and its co-defendants.

The Court reversed and remanded on the ground that there were triable issues of material fact as to whether the ore pile constituted “waste” or a “useful product.” Id. at 1113.

Although the district court had been persuaded that the pile could not be a useful product because it was unusable in its current state, we noted that “raw materials, by definition, can’t be used in their current state” but rather “must be refined-a process which separates the useful portion from the waste.” Id. at 1112.

The pile was waste only if the ore was mixed with so much slag that it was no longer useable for A & W’s principal business.2 Id. at 1113.

Whether this was the case could not be answered on the existing record, but required consideration of other relevant evidence regarding A & W’s actions and the market value of the ore pile, if any. Id.

In A & W Smelter & Refiners, Inc. v. Clinton, 146 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir.1998), the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") ordered A & W to dispose of an ore pile at its smelting facility because the pile contained quantities of naturally occurring lead and slag.

A & W complied and filed a complaint seeking reimbursement of its compliance costs under CERCLA. Id. at 1109.

The district court granted summary judgment for the EPA and its co-defendants. We reversed and remanded on the ground that there were triable issues of material fact as to whether the ore pile constituted "waste" or a "useful product." Id. at 1113.

Although the district court had been persuaded that the pile could not be a useful product because it was unusable in its current state, we noted that "raw materials, by definition, can't be used in their current state" but rather "must be refined-a process which separates the useful portion from the waste." Id. at 1112.

The pile was waste only if the ore was mixed with so much slag that it was no longer useable for A & W's principal business.2Id. at 1113.

Whether this was the case could not be answered on the existing record, but required consideration of other relevant evidence regarding A & W's actions and the market value of the ore pile, if any. Id.