States, feds reach $270M settlement

Keith Loria Nov. 29, 2010, 10:34am


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Wednesday that she is part of a $270 million multi-state and federal bankruptcy settlement with a company that allegedly contaminated a site in Hanover, Mass.

Tronox, Inc., and 14 affiliates allegedly contaminated a 240-acre former munitions manufacturing, testing and disposal facility known as "Fireworks Site."

"Taxpayers should not have to pay to clean up the dangerous mercury contamination at the Fireworks Site," Coakley said.

"Companies should not be allowed to escape their responsibility for dangerous pollution, and this settlement is a very large step in that direction."

Tronox filed for Chapter 11 in January 2009, and brought a lawsuit against its parent company, Anadarko, alleging Anadarko's earlier spin-off of Tronox was unlawful as it vested that entity with environmental liability of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Soils, sediments and water bodies in the vicinity are contaminated with high levels of mercury, lead and other heavy metals due to the munitions operations that occurred at the site since World War I, it was alleged.

The settlement is part of Tronox's bankruptcy proceedings, and will provide the state with nearly $950,000 and a percentage of the recovery from the Anadarko lawsuit.

The money will be used to reimburse Massachusetts for outstanding past costs, fund assessment and recovery of natural resource damages. The bulk of the money will go into an expendable trust to be controlled by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to pay for future cleanup costs at the site.

Tronox has agreed to transfer its right to proceeds from its lawsuit with Anadarko to the governmental entities to which it has environmental liability.

The bankruptcy settlement will provide Massacchusetts, 22 states, six federal entities, the Navajo Nation and several local governments with the ability to resolve environmental liabilities.

"This settlement represents significant progress toward restitution of portions of the North River tributaries for use by future generations of our citizens," MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said. "The agreement also positions the Commonwealth to receive millions more from future litigation so that this site can finally be cleaned up and closed out and the land can be put back into productive re-use."

Joining Massachusetts in the settlement are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Also party to the settlement is the United States on behalf of six federal entities - the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Navajo Nation is also part of the settlement.

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