Coeur D'Alene Tribe, Idaho


Federal officials gave the state a little breathing room to broker a settlement on a monumental mining pollution lawsuit. But if the state is still striking out by the end of June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will resume work toward new Superfund listings for the Silver Valley. Pollution from decades of silver and lead mining in the Silver Valley left toxic waste behind, but state and federal officials disagree on cleanup. The federal government says Superfund dollars can pay for the work. Fearing the economic stigma of the federal cleanup program, Idaho wants to keep the EPA from creating new Superfund areas outside the existing 21-square-mile Bunker Hill Superfund site. Instead, the state wants to settle a decade-old lawsuit the tribe and the U.S. Department of Justice brought against the mines. It seeks damages to pay for cleanup. In December, the EPA agreed to hold off for six months to allow for settlement. If successful, the state wants to put settlement money toward cleanup. Earlier, the region's top EPA official said that unless mining companies agreed to a settlement offer by the end of April, work on new Superfund listings would resume. By the end of June, the EPA needs the assurance a resolution will pay for cleanup costs of up to an estimated $1 billion.