Arizona Supreme Court Ruled that Native American Tribe Does Not have a Claim Against the Arizona Snowbowl Resort for Using Artificial Snow Made from Sewage on Public Land Sacred to the Tribe

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From [HERE] The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the Hopi Tribe does not have a claim against the Arizona Snowbowl Resort for the resort’s use of artificial snow on public land sacred to the tribe.

“Today we hold, as a matter of law, that environmental damage to public land with religious, cultural, or emotional significance to the plaintiff is not special injury for public nuisance purposes,” said the court.

The Arizona Snowbowl Resort manufactures snow from reclaimed wastewater. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, reclaimed wastewater is “water that has been used and circulated through the City’s municipal water sewer system, has passed through a treatment facility, and meets certain standards.” The plaintiff alleged that the snow will cause runoff and air pollution, affecting the Tribe’s ability to hunt and use the land in ceremonies.

Apparently Snowbowl is the first in the world to use 100% reclaimed sewage water. No other ski resort on the entire planet has ever proposed such a plan. [MORE]

As of today, Snowbowl has received permission from the U.S. Forest Service to make snow from water trucked from an unidentified source, in an attempt to make more money during Spring Break.

Although the court of appeals said that the plaintiff was able to show a “special injury,” the state supreme court vacated the lower ruling. The Arizona Supreme Court said that a “special injury” must show an injury different in kind from the general public, not just in degree. The Hopi Tribe did not meet this burden according to the court. The court went on to cite US Supreme Court decisions ruling “giving one religious sect a veto over the use of public park land would deprive others of the right to use what is, by definition, land that belongs to everyone.”