Court rejects Lockheed’s bid to make feds pay for past cleanups at three tainted sites

McClatchy Washington BureauApril 24, 2014 

A federal judge has rejected Lockheed Martin Corp.’s bid to make the federal government pay for the past clean-ups at three tainted production sites.

In a 108-page decision, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said the company was 100 percent responsible for past “response” to the contaminated production sites known as Redlands, Potrero Canyon and LaBorde Canyon. The company sued the government in 2008, leading to a 14-day trial earlier this year.

The judge, though, agreed that the federal government is obliged to pay some of the future clean-up costs: 29 percent at Redlands, 24 percent at Potrero Canyon and 19 percent at LaBorde Canyon.

Solid-propellant rocket production operations occured at the three California sites between 1954 and 1975. A lot of great technical work was done, as Huvelle spells out, but the chemicals used were a toxic nightmare. Huvelle noted that “Lockheed had incurred environmental response costs for the sites totaling nearly $287 million (and) estimates it will incur another $124 million in future response costs.”

Lockheed has already “indirectly recovered” through higher contract costs some 72 percent of its costs to date, Huvelle noted.

“Lockheed actually benefitted from its cleanup efforts through the profits it gained on the response costs that flowed down to its U.S.-government contract,” Huvelle concluded, while adding assigning a portion of the future costs to the government does not cause the same “double recovery” problem.

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