Solar farm developer and contractor  seek dismissal of environmental case

SOLAR FARM: Work continues at the 60-megawatt Mangilao Solar Project on Dec. 22. The project is being developed by the Guam subsidiary of South Korea's Korea Electric Power Co. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

A subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Co. and its Guam solar farm project contractor, Samsung E&C America Inc., are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General regarding stormwater runoff that had impacted nearby properties, including the historic Marbo Cave.

The government of Guam's amended complaint, filed in August 2021, alleged that the defendants did not fully implement erosion control measures at the project site despite it being in an advanced stage of construction. The defendants created or permitted a situation where soil was discharged into Guam's freshwater and ocean, impacting adjoining properties and damaging the island's waters, according the lawsuit. 

The 60-megawatt solar farm project, designed to sell power to Guam Power Authority for 25 years, is being developed off Route 15 in Mangilao.

But after clearing land for the array of solar panels, the project site is being blamed, including by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, for causing stormwater runoff into nearby areas.

GovGuam sought a court order to prevent discharges into nearby residences, the groundwater or ocean.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants are jointly and severally liable for the costs of cleaning up the discharge and damages to natural resources.

'Caused by its own negligence'

KEPCO Mangilao Solar LLC and Samsung E&C submitted separate responses and listed various defenses in each. 

Part of  KEPCO Mangilao LLC's rebuttal states that any damages sustained by GovGuam were "partially caused by its own negligence, and its damages, if any, must be reduced by the percentage of causal negligence attributable to the plaintiff."

KEPCO Mangilao also stated GovGuam failed to take steps to reduce or minimize any damages it may have experienced, according to the solar project owner

Samsung E&C stated that any recovery in the case should be reduced based on Guam Code Annotated Title 18 Section 90108, which essentially states that compensatory relief should be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence that can be attributed to the person trying to recover damages. 

KEPCO Mangilao also stated that GovGuam is barred from moving forward with its lawsuit because the claims have been "previously extinguished by prior compromise, settlement agreement, and/or mutual release."

Another lawsuit filed by World Meridian Sasayan LLC, property owner of Marbo Cave, was dropped in September 2021 after the parties reached an agreement. A major part of that resolution was cleanup work at the Marbo Cave area. 

In late July, after investigating reports of runoff in the area of the Mangilao solar plant project, the Guam EPA issued a notice of violation against the contractor after confirming that approved erosion and sediment controls at the solar farm were not fully installed. 

Samsung E&C did file a notice of intent to appeal Guam EPA's decision.

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