Sen. Therese Terlaje has introduced a bill that would make it easier for the government of Guam to seek independent legal assistance with its civil actions against U.S. agencies for environmental contamination and destruction of cultural and historic sites.
Bill 163-35 would authorize the Office of the Attorney General to hire a private lawyer on “a contingency fee basis” to assist GovGuam in environment-related litigations.
"We must pursue every avenue possible to ensure our cultural and historic sites are protected from destruction and that our environment is safeguarded,” Terlaje said.
“Our agencies often need legal assistance immediately or complex litigation, and this will give the Attorney General flexibility to explore all avenues of providing urgent legal response on behalf of the people of Guam."
In a contingency fee arrangement, a lawyer is paid a portion of the amount awarded to the government of Guam if the outcome is successful.
GovGuam is seeking to sue the U.S. government for environmental contamination “caused by the use of Agent Orange, PFOA, PFOS, PCBs, radiation and other contaminants.”
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GovGuam has sued the U.S. Navy under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act over the contamination of the now-closed Ordot Dump and its surrounding areas. The case is ongoing.
Terlaje has also raised concerns over military buildup-related constructions that threaten Guam’s historic sites.
During a two-day annual Programmatic Agreement workshop in May, Terlaje raised concerns that “the avoidance of adverse impacts to historic sites is not being fully achieved.”
Instead, she added, “ the data recovery, which is the removal of a sampling of archaeologically relevant material (i.e. latte, lusong, earth ovens, pottery pieces, etc.), is often the option being utilized for several important historic sites.”