Thursday, November 12, 2009

U.S. v. Albert Investment Co.

Nov 10: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Chase No. 08-6267. Union Pacific Railroad Co. (Union Pacific) appealed from the district court’s denial of its motion to intervene in an action brought by Plaintiffs-Appellees (United States and the State of Oklahoma) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The Appeals Court ruled, "Because Union Pacific has an interest in the underlying action, and a statutory right to intervene, we reverse and remand."

The Union Pacific Railroad Company acquired the Double Eagle Superfund Site in 2003, as part of its merger with the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. The Appeals Court concluded, "Because Union Pacific has demonstrated all four requirements for intervention as of right -- timeliness, interest, impairment, and inadequate representation -- the district court erred in denying the motion for intervention as of right, and on remand Union Pacific shall be allowed to intervene. Because we find that Union Pacific has a right to intervene, we do not reach the district court’s denial of the motion for permissive intervention."

In an interesting portion of the overall decision, the Appeals Court says, "The notice-and-comment mechanism is not an adequate substitute for intervention, contrary to the government’s claims. . . The government solicits comments regarding proposed consent decrees as a matter of practice. . . Union Pacific submitted comments to the Attorney General within the comment period, and the Department of Justice will file them with the district court. . . As Judge Lucero observed during oral arguments, however, the government is free to ignore the comments because the notice-and comment mechanism is not statutorily mandated. The district court may also disregard Union Pacific’s comments in the absence of any requirement to consider them or any appellate review of the court’s consideration of comments. The failure to consider adequately an intervenor’s objections, on the other hand, is subject to appellate review. . . For these reasons, Union Pacific’s ability to protect its interests will be impaired if it is not a party to this action."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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