Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
Commonwealth of PA Dep’ of Envtl. Prot. v. Lockheed Martin Corp.
In 1957 the Commonwealth constructed the Quehanna Wild Area Nuclear Site. Part of the site was donated to Pennsylvania State University. Until 1967 Penn State leased to a Lockheed predecessor, conducting work under Atomic Energy Commission contracts, involving Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope. The predecessor partially decontaminated. According to Lockheed, the Commonwealth was aware that Strontium-90 remained and could not be removed without dismantling the facility. In the 1990s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to decommission the facility. This cost more than $20 million. PADEP sued Lockheed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9607(a). Lockheed defended that the Commonwealth should recover less than its demand based on its own conduct and liability and the doctrines of unclean hands, estoppel, waiver, and laches. Lockheed also alleged that PADEP was liable under CERCLA as an owner-operator and as having arranged for or transported hazardous substances. The district court dismissed Lockheed’s third-party complaint, concluding that the Commonwealth and DCNR retained Eleventh Amendment immunity when PADEP filed a federal suit. The Third Circuit vacated with instructions to dismiss the third party complaint as moot, based on the sufficiency of Lockheed’s affirmative defenses. View "Commonwealth of PA Dep' of Envtl. Prot. v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law
Shell Oil Co. v. United States
During World War II, the U.S. contracted with oil companies for the production of aviation fuel, which resulted in production of hazardous waste. The waste was dumped at the California McColl site. Several decades later, the oil companies were held liable for cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. 9601, and sought reimbursement from the government based on the contracts. The district court entered summary judgment on liability, finding that the contracts contained open ended indemnification agreements and encompassed costs for CERLCA cleanup, and awarded $87,344,345.70. The trial judge subsequently discovered that his wife had inherited 97.59 shares of stock in a parent to two of the oil companies. The judge ultimately vacated his summary judgment rulings; severed two companies from the suit and directed the clerk to reassign their claims to a different judge; reinstated his prior decisions with respect to two remaining companies; and entered judgment against the government ($68,849,505). The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for reassignment to another judge. The judge was required to recuse himself under 28 U.S.C. 455(b)(4) and the error was not harmless.View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law
Shenandoah Valley Network v. Capka, et al.
Appellants challenged the Agencies' execution of a tiered review process related to planning improvements to Virginia's Interstate 81 corridor. The district court rejected appellants' challenge which alleged various constitutional and statutory violations. On appeal, appellants claimed that the Agencies were attempting to foreclose consideration of environmentally friendly alternatives for specific sections of I-81 by choosing a corridor-wide improvement concept in the first stage of the review process. The court held, however, that appellants misapprehended the Agencies' position where the Agencies planned to comply with the Stipulation in this case and the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., by considering site-specific alternatives to the corridor-wide concept in subsequent stages. Because there was no actual dispute here, and because appellants could not show any injury or imminent threat of injury, this suit was not justiciable. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Shenandoah Valley Network v. Capka, et al." on Justia Law
System Fuels, Inc. v. United States
In 1983, Congress enacted the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 10101–10270, to provide for government collection and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The NWPA authorized the Department of Energy to contract for disposal. In return for payment of fees into the Nuclear Waste Fund, the Standard Contract provided that the DOE would begin to dispose of SNF and HLW not later than January 31, 1998. Because collection and disposal did not begin, courts held that the DOE had breached the Standard Contract with the nuclear energy industry. The trial court found breach of plaintiff's contract, but granted summary judgment in favor of the government regarding the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and set damages for the breach at $10,014,114 plus the cost of borrowed funds for financing construction of a dry fuel storage project. On reconsideration, the trial court reduced damages to $9,735,634 and denied the cost of borrowed funds. The Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to borrowed fund, but and reversed denial of overhead costs. View "System Fuels, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
City of Hugo v. Nichols
The City of Hugo, Oklahoma, and the Hugo Municipal Authority, a public water trust, (collectively "Hugo") contracted with the City of Irving, Texas, ("Irving") for the sale of water Hugo has been allocated or sought to be allocated under permits issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("Board"). Hugo and Irving brought suit against the nine members of the Board for a declaration that certain Oklahoma laws governing the Board’s water allocation decisions were unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause and an injunction prohibiting their enforcement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Board, and Hugo and Irving appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Hugo, as a political subdivision of Oklahoma, lacked standing to sue the Board under the dormant Commerce Clause. Irving, whose injury was solely premised on a contract it entered into with Hugo, likewise could not demonstrate standing because any injury to Irving cannot be redressed. Concluding no plaintiff had the necessary standing, the Court vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case back the district court to dismiss for lack of federal jurisdiction. View "City of Hugo v. Nichols " on Justia Law
Tarrant Regional Water Dist. v. Herrmann
Tarrant Regional Water District ("Tarrant"), a Texas state agency, applied to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board ("the OWRB") for permits to appropriate water at three locations in Oklahoma for use in Texas. Just before filing its applications, Tarrant sued the nine members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in the district court for the Western District of Oklahoma and sought a declaratory judgment to invalidate certain Oklahoma statutes that govern the appropriation and use of water and an injunction preventing OWRB from enforcing them. Tarrant alleged that the Oklahoma statutes restricted interstate commerce in water and thereby violated the dormant Commerce Clause as discriminatory or unduly burdensome. Tarrant further alleged that Congress did not authorize Oklahoma through the Red River Compact ("Compact") to enact such laws. OWRB responded that Congress did authorize Oklahoma to adopt these statutes by consenting to the Compact. Tarrant also claimed that the Compact preempted the Oklahoma statutes insofar as the Compact applied to Tarrant’s application to appropriate water located in the Red River Basin. The district court granted summary judgment for OWRB on both the dormant Commerce Clause and Supremacy Clause claims. After that decision, Tarrant took steps to export to Texas Oklahoma water that was not subject to the Compact. Tarrant negotiated a contract with property owners in Stephens County, Oklahoma to export groundwater to Texas and also entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Apache Tribe concerning the Tribe’s potential water rights. In court Tarrant then reasserted its dormant Commerce Clause challenge based on these transactions. The district court dismissed the Stephens County matter for lack of standing and the Apache Tribe matter as not ripe. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the grants of summary judgment on the dormant Commerce Clause and preemption issues, and the dismissals based on standing and ripeness: [w]e hold that the Red River Compact insulates Oklahoma water statutes from dormant Commerce Clause challenge insofar as they apply to surface water subject to the Compact." View "Tarrant Regional Water Dist. v. Herrmann" on Justia Law