Description: Action against Washington State officials for allegedly taking unlawful actions to block coal export terminal.
Lighthouse Resources Inc. v. Inslee
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 07/30/2018 Order Download Motion for protective order granted. Washington Federal Court Blocked Companies Challenging State’s Alleged Efforts to Thwart Coal Export Terminal from Requesting Internal Documents from Environmental Group. The federal district court for the Western District of Washington granted the Washington Environmental Council’s and others’ (WEC’s) motion for a protective order in a lawsuit brought by Lighthouse Resources, Inc. and other companies (Lighthouse) to challenge Washington State officials’ efforts to block a coal export terminal. WEC—a coalition of organizations opposed to the terminal—contested Lighthouse’s request for internal documents relating to its strategies, campaigns, plans, or policies regarding the coal export terminal. The court found that Lighthouse met the low threshold for establishing that the internal documents were relevant because such documents could support Lighthouse’s theory that WEC and the State coordinated to block the project due to their shared animus towards coal and its export. The court concluded, however, that protective relief should be granted based on First Amendment protections for freedom of association. The court found that since the project was still underway and campaigns were ongoing, requiring discovery could chill speech immediately. The court also found that the internal documents were not “highly relevant” to Lighthouse’s case and that Lighthouse had not “carefully tailored” its request “to avoid unnecessary interference with protected activities.” The court also said the risk of interference with campaigners’ associational rights was unrefuted, even if the documents produced were protected from public disclosure, given WEC’s “concern that handing over internal documents would give the proverbial fox the keys to the henhouse.” The court also found that a determination of whether the documents were otherwise unavailable would be premature. The court said it would not reach the issue of whether the discovery requests imposed an “undue burden” on WEC but indicated that it would not have granted protective relief on such grounds because WEC had not demonstrated undue burden with any specificity. 07/19/2018 Reply Download Reply filed in support of motion for protective order. 07/16/2018 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs in opposition to Washington Environmental Council et al. motion for protective order. 07/03/2018 Motion Download Motion for protective order filed by Washington Environmental Council et al. 05/30/2018 Order Motion for partial dismissal denied. At a hearing on May 30, 2018, the federal district court for the Western District of Washington denied Washington State officials’ motion for partial dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the State’s actions blocking a coal export facility in Longview, Washington. 05/25/2018 Response Download Response filed to amicus briefs on defendants' motion for partial dismissal and motion for abstention. 05/18/2018 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by National Mining Association, National Association of Manufacturers, American Farm Bureau Federation, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers as amici curiae in opposition to defendants' motion for partial dismissal and abstention. 05/15/2018 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by Western States Petroleum Association as amicus curiae in opposition to defendants' motion for partial dismissal and abstention. 05/15/2018 Reply Download Reply filed in support of state defendants' motion for partial dismissal and motion for abstention. 05/15/2018 Reply Download Reply filed by Washington Environmental Council in support of motion for partial dismissal and abstention. 05/14/2018 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by Association of American Railroads as amicus curiae in support of plaintiff BNSF Railway's Opposition to Defendants' and Intervenor-Defendants' motions for partial dismissal and abstention. 05/08/2018 Amicus Brief Download Amicus brief filed by Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah in opposition to defendants' motion for abstention. 05/08/2018 Opposition Download Opposition filed by BNSF to defendants' and intervenor-defendants' motions for partial dismissal and abstention. BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), which intervened as a plaintiff, argued that the defendants were misusing state law to justify regulating rail and interstate and international commerce, and to interfere with foreign affairs. BNSF contended that their claims were not related just to a single coal terminal but to the defendants’ targeting of the coal supply chain “as part of a broader effort to stop coal use everywhere.” 05/08/2018 Opposition Download Opposition filed by plaintiffs to defendants' motion for partial dismissal and motion for abstention. The plaintiffs—the operators of a “coal energy supply chain company”—asserted that their claims did not threaten to divest Washington State of its sovereignty; that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act preempted the State actions, which would “unduly interfere with rail transportation as a matter of fact”; that the Ports and Waterways Safety Act claims could not be dismissed because the defendants were blocking the terminal based on vessel traffic and safety concerns; and that abstention was inappropriate since the plaintiffs were not pursuing their federal claims in state court. 04/24/2018 Motion Download Joinder by Washington Environmental Council et al. in state defendants' amended motion for partial dismissal and abstention. 04/24/2018 Motion Download Motions filed by defendants for partial dismissal under Eleventh Amendment and FRCP 12(b)(6) and for abstention. In their motion for partial dismissal and motion for abstention, the defendants argued that neither the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) nor the Ports and Waterways Safety Act preempted the State actions and that the State commissioner of public lands was immune from all the claims asserted in the lawsuit because they concerned her management of State-owned aquatic lands of a “unique and fundamentally sovereign nature.” The defendants also argued that the federal court should apply Pullman or Colorado River abstention doctrine to allow parallel state court lawsuits to proceed. 04/20/2018 Amicus Brief Download Brief filed by amicus curiae Cowlitz County in opposition of defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for abstention. 03/26/2018 Order Download BNSF Railway Company's motion to intervene as plaintiff granted. 01/03/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Companies Sued Washington State Officials for Blocking Development of Coal Export Terminal. A coal company and other companies associated with the proposed development of a coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Governor Jay Inslee and two other Washington State officials, alleging that the defendants took actions to block a coal export terminal in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause. The plaintiffs also asserted that the defendants’ actions were preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act. The complaint alleged that the defendants had expressed “unyielding opposition to coal and coal exports,” citing the governor’s writings and statements regarding his concerns about coal combustion and export and climate change. The complaint also alleged that the defendants coordinated with other states to block coal exports. The plaintiffs asserted that the defendants violated the dormant foreign and interstate Commerce Clause by denying and refusing to process permits and expanding the scope of State Environmental Policy Act review beyond the boundaries of the state.