Seattle Helps Salmon|to Pay for Polluting

     SEATTLE (CN) — In reparation for contributing to water pollution, Seattle will partner with a private restoration development company to restore a salmon habitat at the Duwamish River Superfund site, the Justice Department announced.     Government officials and other stakeholders in the cleanup filed a complaint and consent decree against the city Sept. 22 in federal court.     Seattle agreed to settle the latest claims, involving natural resource damages on the Duwamish that occurred after a 1991 consent decree, by purchasing restoration credits from Bluefield Holdings.     Bluefield is headquartered in Seattle and uses credits to help businesses settle Superfund liabilities. Superfund law says landowners who cannot restore habit on their individual properties can buy credits for restoration of other properties.     The federal government declared the Duwamish River a Superfund site in 2001. The river flows through parts of industrial Seattle and empties into Elliott Bay. Once a fruitful salmon habitat, the river is now polluted by oil, mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances.     Seattle owns numerous sites along the waterway, including utilities and storm drains, that have contributed to the pollution.     The city’s purchased credits will fund salmon habitat restoration and clean up contaminated soil, among other projects.     “The city of Seattle is acting responsibly to resolve its liability for injuries to natural resources by acting to restore those resources by creatively utilizing restoration credits,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.     “Everyone comes out ahead when parties resolve their liability in this way, and the benefits of this resolution, cleaner waterways, will be enjoyed by Seattle residents and generations to come,” Cruden added.     Stakeholders signing off on the restoration include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Suquamish Tribe and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.     The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by a federal court before becoming final.

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‘Drunk of the Week’ Feature Gets Paper Sued

     SEATTLE (CN) — Seattle’s alternative weekly newspaper published a photograph of a woman’s face and bare breast in its “Drunk of the Week” feature, though she was sober and in Pittsburgh at the time, the woman says in a defamation complaint.     Tamar Hage sued The Stranger, its corporate parent Index Newspapers, and photographer Kelly O’Neil on Sept. 7 in King County Superior Court.     The Stranger was founded by Tim Keck, a co-founder of The Onion. It is edited by Savage Love columnist Dan Savage.     “Drunk of the Week” was a weekly photo column by staff photographer O’Neil, who no longer works for the paper, according to the complaint.     Hage says her picture was featured in December 2015 with her nipple blocked out in the print version but her bare breast shown online.     The long caption reported that the women in the photo had been drinking “champagne, whiskey, and ‘mystery punch’ … several glasses of all three” at Thanksgiving. And “What a joy to see TWO nipple slips instead of just one!”     Hage says the caption is false, as she was celebrating her grandmother’s 90th birthday in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving and was not drunk. Nor did O’Neil or The Stranger ask for or receive permission to print the photo, which invaded her privacy, Hage says.     When she complained to the newspaper, Hage says, it “deceptively informed” her that it was not a photo of her at all, but of “a woman in Michigan named ‘Lisa.’”     Hage adds: “The Stranger and/or O’Neil deceptively went to great lengths to conceal their misconduct in an attempt to dissuade plaintiff from asserting a claim against The Stranger and/or O’Neil.”     As part of the lengthy deception about “the topless woman depicted in the Drunk of the Week piece,” Hage says, the newspaper’s general manager sent her an email “with an attached purported release form purportedly signed by a ‘Lisa’ and another alleged photograph of ‘Lisa.’”     The email said, in part: “I do agree that you bear a striking resemblance to Lisa in the photo that ran in Kelly’s column and can understand the confusion, but I want to reassure you that it is not you.     I apologize, once again, for any stress this has caused you or your family. The picture has been removed from our site and will not be reposted. I hope this can finally put your mind at ease. “     Then the ruse became really bizarre, Hage says. She says the photograph of Lisa was actually a picture of O’Neil’s friend Lisa Marceau Lorincz, who denied that the bare-breasted picture was of her because she was being treated for breast cancer at the time.     “Lisa Marceau Lorincz denies ever signing a release for defendant O’Neil and denies ever being the subject of a photograph where her bare breast and nipple are exposed,” the complaint states. “(A)t the time The Stranger and O’Neil claim the topless Drunk of the Week photograph was taken of Lisa Marceau Lorincz, Ms. Lorincz was in fact undergoing breast cancer treatment, had not yet undergone reconstruction surgery, and could not have been the subject of a photograph depicting a bare breast and nipple at that time.”     That ruse makes the newspaper’s deception “even more deplorable,” Hage says, as it dragged in a woman who had nothing to do with the fiasco, but who was “bravely fighting breast cancer.”     Hage says the “abusive, embarrassing and humiliating Drunk of the Week piece” embarrassed her before her friends, relatives and coworkers.     She seeks damages for defamation, privacy invasion, false light, outrage, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and consumer law violations.     The Stranger’s legal department did not return an email request for comment sent over the weekend. Hage is represented by Paul Fogarty

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Farm Fails to Decertify Class in Visa Wage Suit

     SEATTLE (CN) — The Ninth Circuit refused Wednesday to decertify a class of domestic workers claiming that a farm near Prosser, Washington, withheld details about $12-an-hour jobs.     Bacilio Ruiz Torres and Jose Amador are the lead plaintiffs behind the suit against fruit-and-vegetable farm Mercer Canyons Inc.     They say Mercer participated in the federal H-2A program in 2013, but failed to tell local farmworkers like them about H-2A work that came with higher pay.     The H-2A program allows Mercer to hire foreign workers for temporary agricultural positions at a $12 hourly wage.     Ruiz Torres did vineyard work for Mercer and claims he was not told about the qualifying H-2A work at $12 an hour.     Amador sought work at Mercer, but office staff told him, “the chances of getting jobs were really low until the people from … Mexico arrived, and they would have to see how many spots were open,” as quoted in the Wednesday ruling.     A federal judge certified the class alleging violations of the Agricultural Workers’ Protection Act and Washington law, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed Wednesday.     Writing for a three-person panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr. called it a “common question of fact” whether Mercer’s domestic workers were consistently paid $12 per hour for H-2A work.     The court rejected Mercer’s argument that Ruiz Torres and Amador should not represent seasonal and migrant farmworkers because they were only seasonal farmworkers.     Mercer “has not articulated how this would make a substantive difference” in the case, according to the ruling.

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Tribe Takes Tobacco Tax Fight to 9th Cicuit

     SEATTLE (CN) — Facing a $23 million federal tax bill it doesn’t believe it should pay, a Native American-owned tobacco company urged the Ninth Circuit to keep its land safe from seizure by the U.S. government.     King Mountain Tobacco initiated the challenge at hand five years ago, telling a federal judge that the Yakama Indian Nation’s 1855 treaty with the United States bars it from having to pay excise taxes on tobacco products.     The company runs on 80 acres of Yakama land in White Swan, Washington, started in 2006 by Delbert Wheeler Sr., a member of the Yakama tribe who died this past July.     U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson sided with the government at summary judgment, however, finding that finished tobacco products — unlike unprocessed tobacco grown on the reservation — are not exempt from taxation under the General Allotment Act.     The Yakama Nation’s attorney Randolph Barnhouse told the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday that Peterson’s ruling gave Uncle Sam the green light to collect $23 million in taxes, penalties and interest from King Mountain.     Pushing the federal appeals court to reverse, Barnhouse said excise taxes “cannot be applied on Yakama allotted lands.”     Judge M. Margaret McKeown interrupted to ask Barnhouse about a taxpayer-refund suit.     “Isn’t that a remedy?” McKeown asked.     “It is a remedy, but it’s not a remedy available to my client,” Barnhouse said.     Since the tax was assessed against King Mountain, not the Yakama Nation, Barnhouse said the tribe’s “main interest” is ensuring that tribal land is not seized or forfeited for payment of the taxes.     Justice Department attorney Patrick Urda urged the court to affirm.     “Treaty provisions can’t be stitched together to create an exemption that’s not clearly expressed,” Urda said.     The attorney noted that a taxpayer-refund suit is the “course Congress has designed” for King Mountain to seek relief. Urda said that neither the 1855 Treaty nor the Allotment Act exempts King Mountain from the tax.     Judge Mary Schroeder asked “what happens” if the tax isn’t paid.     Urda said there wouldn’t be a lien or levy on any land held in trust for an Indian tribal member.     “We don’t believe that forfeiture would apply either,” he said.     King Mountain’s buildings and plant operation could, however, be forfeited, Urda said.     The panel did not say when it will rule on the case.

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