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Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. v. United States

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20066
Nos. Nos. 99-5138 et al., 225 F.3d 1336/51 ERC 1097/(Fed. Cir., 08/31/2000)

The court holds that three electric utilities may maintain their breach of contract claims against the government for the failure to begin by January 1, 1998, the disposal of spent nuclear fuel waste produced at the utilities' plant as agreed to in a 1983 contract. The government conceded that it would not be able to begin disposal until at least 2010 because the repository it planned to build would not be ready until that time. The court first holds that the avoidable delays clause of the contract would not provide adequate relief to the utility companies for their breach of contract claims. The delay provision is not a general one covering all delays, but a more limited one dealing with specified kinds of delays, namely, those in the delivery, acceptance, or transport of nuclear waste. The utility companies' claims, however, are far broader than one for improper delays by the government in performing its contractual obligations. The utility companies contend that the government breached a critical and central obligations of the contract—that it begin disposal of nuclear waste by January 1, 1998. Therefore, the language of the avoidable delays provision of the contract cannot properly be read to cover the utility companies' claim. Moreover, equitable adjustment of the contract schedules for removal of the nuclear waste would provide virtually no basis for compensating the utility companies for any damages they may have sustained from the government's failure to perform its contractual obligations. The court, therefore, affirms the decision of the lower court denying the government's motion to dismiss the utility companies' takings and breach of good-faith and fair-dealing claims.

[A decision related to this litigation is published at 31 ELR 20069.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jerry Stouck
Spriggs & Hollingsworth
1350 I St. NW, 9th Fl., Washington DC 20005
(202) 898-5800

Counsel for Defendant
Harold D. Lester Jr.
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Friedman and Newman, JJ.