Court upholds GovGuam's CERCLA lawsuit against Navy
A federal court has denied the U.S. Navy’s motion to dismiss the government of Guam’s lawsuit over the contamination of the now-closed Ordot Dump and its surrounding area.
“This is a significant win for Guam. We are now able to continue our environmental law suit against the federal government to recover costs Guam incurred to close Ordot Dump,” Attorney General Elizabeth Anderson said.
The government of Guam’s solid waste system was placed under federal receivership in 2010 as a result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit for violation of the Clean Water Act. The federal receivership mandated GovGuam to close Ordot Dump and build a new landfill.
“We have spent over $200 million to date, with millions more expected based on the receiver’s recent report to the court that Guam needs to borrow $23 million more,” Anderson said.
Federal Judge Ketanji Jackson of the District Court of Columbia on Monday shot down the Navy’s bid to dismiss GovGuam’s lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 filed by the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of GovGuam last year.
The U.S. government, in its motion, argued that GovGuam exceeded the statute of limitations to file under CERCLA.
A preliminary court order, however, upheld Guam’s claims. The Office of Guam’s Attorney General said the court is expected to issue a written opinion shortly.
The OAG’s federal lawsuit against the United States Department of Navy is being litigated by a Houston-based law firm that specializes in environmental law. Credit goes to attorneys John Gilmour and Bill Jackson from the law firm Kelley, Drye & Warren.
Prior to turning Ordot Dump over to the GovGuam, the U.S. Navy owned and operated it before and after WWII.
“I feel very strongly that the people of Guam have lived up to their responsibility in closing the dump and opening a landfill per the federal government’s insistence,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said. “But there are others who not only used the dump, but also had a part in its creation, and they should be held accountable – that’s all we are asking in this lawsuit.”
Acting Speaker Therese Terlaje congratulates the Office of the Attorney General for its victory in the first round of the court battle.
“This is a great victory for the people of Guam and allows us an excellent and most significant avenue to proceed in our longstanding quest for justice against environmental contamination,” Terlaje said.