Home News Local news MORE LEGAL HURDLES AWAIT BEAL DEAL

MORE LEGAL HURDLES AWAIT BEAL DEAL

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Whatever Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews’ decision on the Beal Aerospace-V.I. government land exchange lawsuit on Tuesday, challenges to the deal will continue.
Lawyers representing plaintiff Sen. Alicia "Chuckie" Hansen and defendants Caribbean Space Technologies, an affiliate of Beal, and the V.I. government are scheduled to deliver their final arguments at 10 a.m. Tuesday. And despite the outcome of the case, Andrew Simpson, attorney for the St. Croix Environmental Association, said he will serve both defendants with SEA’s suit.
"If it goes in favor of (Hansen) we won’t need to ask for a preliminary injunction, we’ll go for declaratory relief," Simpson said. Such a request would essentially ask the court to declare the land exchange unconstitutional.
If Hansen loses, then SEA will have to go through the same process the senator and 19 other plaintiffs did, although in Judge Maria Cabret’s court and with a different set of complaints.
On Oct. 8, Andrews granted Hansen’s request for a temporary restraining order against the land swap, which was approved by the V.I. Legislature three days earlier. Andrews ruled Gov. Charles Turnbull violated the public trust when he sent the land exchange agreement to the Senate for approval.
After the issuance of the temporary order, lawyers argued their cases for and against a permanent injunction in a two-week trial where 22 witnesses took the stand and more than 80 documents were entered into evidence.
During that time, SEA and the Virgin Islands Conservation Society filed their lawsuit in Territorial Court to stop the government from exchanging 14.5 acres of public land on Great Pond Bay with the Texas-based rocket company. Beal wants to build a 320,000-square-foot rocket assembly plant and world headquarters on the shores of Great Pond Bay. The company needs the 14.5 acres at Camp Arawak for a portion of the proposed facility’s parking lot.
In exchange for the acreage at Camp Arawak, the government would receive approximately the same amount of land, owned by Beal, in Estate Whim and Grange Hill.
SEA’s suit, meanwhile, claims, among other things, that the government entered into a special agreement with Beal, thereby violating the Constitutional provision guaranteeing equal protection under the law. The environmental group’s complaint includes allegations of violations of the V.I.’s Revised Organic Act, which is a federal statute that mandates certain portions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights apply to the Virgin Islands.
The complaint addresses specifically the contract clause, a part of the Constitution, and the due process and equal protection clauses found in the Bill of Rights.
Twice during Andrews’ proceedings, Caribbean Space Technologies and the V.I. government attempted to have the case moved to U.S. District Court. Simpson said he would welcome such an attempt in the upcoming suit.
"(The defendants) would have the legal right to do so," he said. "We want to reach some of these issues."
CST and Beal, meanwhile, are continuing with the environmental approval process for the proposed project, said Marjorie Roberts, CST president. She said that once litigation against the project is settled, the permitting process, which involves approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coastal Zone Management program, could take nine months.
"If there were no legal impediments, we’d be going full force," Roberts told a gathering of Republicans on Sunday night. "We feel we are right."
On Tuesday, Andrews will either take the case under advisement and then issue a written ruling or rule immediately from the bench.

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