First Environment’s work in connection with the Redlands/Beaumont sites extends back to the early 2000s with its retention as consulting expert for Lockheed Martin for the Redlands tort litigation. In that matter, more than 700 plaintiffs alleged damages related to exposure from trichloroethylene (TCE) and ammonium perchlorate (AP) that entered the groundwater as result of manufacturing activities for the U.S. government at the rocket propulsion facility in Redlands from 1954 to 1975.
First Environment also supported Lockheed Martin in a cost recovery action against the U.S. filed in 2008. For this project, we reviewed and analyzed expert reports and underlying complex technical data regarding soil and groundwater contamination as part of the Redlands/Beaumont CERCLA litigation. We supported the client in its litigation to recover environmental remediation costs that it incurred, or may incur in the future, at the former solid rocket motor production and testing facility near Redlands, California under CERCLA and other environmental causes of action.
Work entailed the technical review, organization and analysis of thousands of ownership, operational, regulatory, and technical documents related to ammonium perchlorate (AP) rocket fuel formulation and manufacture at Redlands Portero Canyon and LaBorde Canyon, California. This required not only the use of special document retrieval and organization software, but also a technical knowledge base that permitted understanding of document significance and value to the litigation process. The work product in this case was used by attorneys and experts on the case to understand the vast complex setup for the manufacture of rockets during the “Cold War” era by a number of predecessor parties to Lockheed Martin, including Grand Central Aircraft Company, Grand Central Rocket Company, the City of Redlands, Tennessee Gas Transmission Company, TENNECO, Food Machinery and Chemical Company, FMC, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and Lockheed Propulsion Company.
First Environment used various litigation support tools to code and categorize thousands of technical documents, including Concordance and Microsoft Access. These databases were used by counsel and experts to formulate the client’s litigation strategy.
In 2013, First Environment was called on by counsel to develop an expert rebuttal report to opine on the conclusions reached by the government’s expert. Based on extensive research on the historic operations at the facility, First Environment opined that the government had failed to consider the facility and its operations in the proper context of the time in which the facility operated. For example, we reviewed contracts that specified the equipment required to be used to grind and finish the AP that was used in manufacturing the solid propellant. Based on our review, we discovered that Lockheed Martin was contractually bound to use the government-supplied equipment which did not contain any air/dust emission controls. As a result, AP was released into the environment. The releases, however, were beyond the organization’s control. Given the specified equipment, this lack of control over the selection of the grinding machines should have been considered as a defense in the lawsuit.
With regard to historical product and waste management, First Environment concluded that AP product releases were not a regulated environmental concern during the operating time frame. Rather, the accumulation of AP product was managed from a safety perspective, as a modern and efficient environmental control technology had not yet been developed. In fact, none of the manufacturing specifications addressed environmental issues, and the United States’ contractually mandated particle size requirements were based on maintaining safety, not environmental concerns.