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South Carolina v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

June 26, 2018

South Carolina, Plaintiff,
v.
United States; United States Department of Energy; Rick Perry, in his official capacity as Secretary of Energy; National Nuclear Security Administration; and, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, in her official capacity as Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and Undersecretary for Nuclear Security, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          MICHALLE GHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court pursuant to Defendants the United States, the Department of Energy (“DOE”), the National Nuclear Security Administration (“NNSA”), Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and Administrator Gordon-Hagerty's Motion to Stay the Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal (ECF No. 27). Defendants move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(c) to stay the Preliminary Injunction Order entered by the court on June 7, 2018 (ECF No. 23) (“the Injunction”), pending the resolution of their appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (See ECF No. 26). (ECF No. 27 at 1.) The Injunction prevents Defendants from terminating the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility project (“MOX Facility”) currently under construction at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, South Carolina until this case can be decided on its merits. (ECF No. 23.) For the reasons below, the court DENIES Defendants' Motion to Stay the Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal (ECF No. 27).

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         On May 25, 2018, the State concurrently filed a complaint against Defendants[1] (ECF No. 1), a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 5), and a Motion for Expedited Briefing (ECF No. 6). On May 29, 2018, the court granted the Motion for Expedited Briefing. (ECF No. 8.) On June 4, 2018, Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 19), and on June 5, 2018, the court held a hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 20). On June 6, 2018, the State filed a Reply in Support of the Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 21), and on June 7, 2018, the court issued the Injunction. (ECF No. 23.)

         On June 15, Defendants filed this Motion to Stay the Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 27) along with a Notice of Appeal (ECF No. 26).[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 62(c), a court may “suspend, modify, restore, or grant” an injunction while an interlocutory appeal regarding the injunction is pending. Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(c). When considering whether to stay an order pending appeal under Rule 62(c), courts consider “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants assert that the Injunction should be stayed for two reasons. First, Defendants posit that their actions following the issuance of the Injunction make the Injunction unnecessary and, in essence, moot. (ECF No. 27 at 5.) The Injunction vacated Defendants' May 10 decisions to terminate the MOX Facility and pursue the Dilute and Dispose method of disposition, vacated the May 14 Partial Stop Work Order, and enjoined Defendants from continuing to pursue the termination of the MOX Facility. (ECF No. 23 at 35-36.) After the Injunction was issued, Defendants informed the MOX Facility contractor, CB&I AREVA MOX Services, LLC, that the May 14, 2018 Partial Stop Work Order had been rescinded. (ECF No. 27-1.) Additionally, Defendants instructed DOE personnel not to take any action to implement the Dilute and Dispose method of disposition for the 34 metric tons of defense plutonium designated for processing at the MOX Facility. (ECF No. 27 at 4.) Defendants' rescission of the Partial Stop Work Order was a direct response to the Injunction. (ECF No. 27-1) (“Pursuant to the June 7, 2018 Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina Aiken Division, the May 14, 2018 NNSA Partial Stop Work Order is cancelled . . . .”). Similarly, DOE and NNSA personnel were directed to not pursue the Dilute and Dispose method of disposition in order to comply with the Injunction (ECF No. 27 at 4). When an injunction both nullifies previous actions and enjoins future actions, compliance with the injunction's retroactive portions does not make the injunction as a whole, and specifically its prospective portions, moot. See Polaris Pool Sys., Inc. v. Great American Waterfall Co., 2006 WL 289118, at *4 (M.D. Fla. February 7, 2006) (“[M]odification of an injunction is proper only when there has been a change of circumstances between entry of the injunction and the filing of the motion that would render the continuance of the injunction in its original form inequitable.”) (quoting Favia v. Ind. Univ. of Pa., 7 F.3d 332, 337-38 (3rd Cir. 1993)). Defendants' actions do not render the continuance of the Injunction in its original form inequitable. Therefore, Defendants' actions following the issuance of the Injunction do not support staying the Injunction.

         Secondly, Defendants submit the factors described in Hilton weigh in favor of staying the Injunction. (ECF No. 27 at 5-10.) The Hilton factors are functionally identical to the factors a court considers when deciding to grant a preliminary injunction. Compare Hilton, 481 U.S. at 776 with Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008) (“A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.”). Defendants acknowledge that their arguments in favor of the stay mirror their arguments against the issuance of the Injunction. (ECF No. 27 at 5) (“For the reasons stated in their brief in opposition to plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, Defendants respectfully assert that they have satisfied [the Hilton] factors and that a stay is appropriate.”). The court addressed these arguments in the Injunction and stands by its previous analysis.[3] Therefore, the court finds that the Hilton factors weigh against staying the injunction.

         IV. CONCLUSION

         For the reasons discussed above, the court DENIES Defendants' Motion for Stay of the Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal (ECF No. 27).

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

         United States District Judge June 26, 2018 ...


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