GovGuam Loses Appeal Related To Dump Closure

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Attorney for receiver hopes government will stop delaying

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 7, 2015) – A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the government of Guam's request to void some of District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood's decisions related to the closure of Ordot dump.

The governor's office had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to void Tydingco-Gatewood's orders over a five-month period, through September 2013.

"The arguments offered by Guam in support of that relief appear very weak, both factually and legally, but we cannot ultimately address them because we lack jurisdiction to review those orders," the appeals court stated in a March 5 memorandum.

The governor's office responded that it's "disappointed that the appeal was dismissed based on lack of jurisdiction, as we were looking forward to receiving a determination on the merits."

One of the judge's orders involves a request by the governor's office to remove the local attorney general from the case and allow a private law firm to represent the government of Guam.

Tydingco-Gatewood initially rejected the request, but the law firm eventually was allowed to represent GovGuam in the case.

"It is very unfortunate that the government of Guam has expended thousands of dollars on private legal representation, forced delay and additional spending by the federal receiver to have private lawyers perform services the office of the attorney general was more qualified to perform at a much lower cost to Guam's taxpayers," said David L. Manning, representative of Gershman, Brickner and Bratton, the court-appointed receiver that oversees GovGuam's solid waste management.

The private law firm representing GovGuam, Cabot Mantanona, has been paid almost $70,000 in connection with the case, according to documents released by the governor's office earlier this week. The documents were released following a Pacific Daily News request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"It is our hope that the government of Guam will now stop its delaying tactics and work with the District Court and the receiver to fully implement the consent decree in all respects," Manning stated.

A consent decree, approved in federal court nearly a decade ago, requires GovGuam to correct environmental problems stemming from the leachate at Ordot dump.

GovGuam borrowed $200 million from the bond market to close the dump and build a landfill.

"We've paid over $200 million for a landfill with a total life expectancy of approximately 10 years. That's over $20 million per year to bury our trash," the governor's office stated.

The court in 2008 placed solid waste operations under receivership after Guam failed to open a new landfill and close the Ordot dump, as required by the consent decree.

The receivership could end late this year, the judge said during hearings last month.

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