The Department of Energy (DOE) wants to delay more than $1 million is wage-related payments to the contractor of the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility over a legal technicality, according to recent filings in a federal lawsuit.
The department is not disputing U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler’s mid-November decision that DOE must pay more than $1 million to MOX Services after improperly withholding payments for certain employees. However, it says federal law requires Wheeler to decouple the matter of the missing wages from the company’s 2016 lawsuit before the agency has to fork over the money.
In a 2016 lawsuit, MOX Services alleged DOE was responsible for the delays and cost overruns at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) then being built at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The unfinished plant, which DOE formally terminated in October, was designed to turn 34 metric tons of nuclear weapon-usable plutonium into commercial reactor fuel under an arms control pact with Russia.
MOX Services sought some $200 million in damages before filing a multitude of smaller MFFF-related lawsuits that Wheeler ultimately consolidated into the 2016 case. In one of those smaller complaints, the company demanded DOE return some $1 million the agency withheld from the MFFF contract because the government disputed whether the company was entitled to give raises to 55 employees in 2015 after a merger.
Wheeler ultimately ordered DOE to pay up, because the agency did not follow the law in denying MOX Services the roughly $1 million in wage-related payments. The judge set a Dec. 11 deadline, but the department said the law does not require the government to pay up until judgment in the case is final — and final judgment in the matter of the wages is not possible while that issue is still part of the unresolved master lawsuit, which is slated to go to trial in 2019.
“Accordingly, we respectfully request that the Court remove this case from the consolidated cases and enter judgment” for the same $1 million or so awarded in Wheeler’s November decision, a federal lawyer wrote for DOE in a Monday motion.