Rosette, Inc. v. United States
Citation: 28 ELR 21145
The court holds that a greenhouse's geothermal resources ownership claim is time barred by the Quiet Title Act's (the Act's) 12-year statute of limitations. The court first holds that the Quiet Title Act provides the greenhouse's exclusive remedy. The greenhouse may characterize its lawsuit as a declaratory judgment, but it nonetheless seeks a declaration as to the ownership of the geothermal resources. Moreover, the greenhouse may characterize its lawsuit as a defensive measure, but its lawsuit nonetheless is an affirmative step taken to quiet title to the geothermal resources. The Act is the greenhouse's only recourse for haling the United States into court on the issue of ownership of the geothermal resources.
The court then holds that the Act's 12-year statute of limitations bars the greenhouse's lawsuit. In 1978, the greenhouse knew or should have known that the United States claimed an interest in the geothermal resources. However, the greenhouse did not file suit until 15 years later. The court next rejects the argument that the greenhouse's claim did not accrue until 1993 when the Bureau of Land Management issued a shutdown order requiring the greenhouse to cease using the geothermal resources. Regardless of what prompted the greenhouse to file suit, it now seeks to quiet title to the geothermal resources. The greenhouse knew of U.S. interest in 1978, and the fact that it decided not to contest that interest until a disagreement arose cannot defeat the working of the statute of limitations. The court further holds that the Geothermal Steam Act, which requires the United States to quiet title to geothermal resources when development is imminent, did not toll the Quiet Title Act's statute of limitations.
Counsel for Plaintiffs
Stephen E. Hosford
Hubert & Hernandez
2100 N. Main St., Ste. 1, Las Cruces NM 88004
Counsel for Defendants
Jared A. Goldstein
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
Before Ebel and McWilliams, JJ.