| WASHINGTON, June 19
WASHINGTON, June 19 An Arizona mining company
has asked a federal court to void a $220 million settlement with
the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it found the Justice
Department was conducting an criminal investigation of the
agency over the case.
Asarco, a unit of Grupo Mexico, has long
accused the EPA of concealing records that would clear the
company from claims it polluted thousands of properties with
lead near Omaha, Nebraska, where it operated a smelter for more
than 50 years. Asarco says that lead paint from houses caused
the pollution, not the plant.
The company filed a motion this week in U.S. Bankruptcy
Court for the Southern District of Texas asking the court to
nullify the settlement, which was reached late in the last
decade. The motion says the EPA's Robert Feild, who coordinated
a project looking into the Nebraska sites, destroyed agency
records and advised others to do so.
Asarco exited bankruptcy in 2009, four years after it sought
The motion said Asarco learned this month that the U.S.
Attorney's Office and the EPA's Inspector General are conducting
a joint criminal investigation relating to potential obstruction
of justice by Feild.
Asarco got the information about potential destruction of
evidence from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, it said.
"We recently learned that Justice and the EPA Inspector
General have been investigating EPA's misconduct since 2010 and
we are cooperating fully," said Greg Evans, a lawyer for Asarco.
"We are confident the court will order EPA to return some or
all of the $219.5 million Asarco paid," as part of a series of
pollution settlements the company agreed to in the last decade,
The EPA's Feild did not immediately return requests for
comment, but his regional office said it would be "wholly
inappropriate" for it to comment on the possible existence of
any investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, or the EPA's
The EPA deferred to the Department of Justice and its
Inspector General's Office did not return requests for comment.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the DOJ, declined
comment as the matter remains in litigation.