In November 2011, a derivative lawsuit was filed in the Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas naming as defendants ETP, ETP GP, ETP LLC, the boards of directors of ETP LLC (collectively with ETP GP and ETP LLC, the “ETP Defendants”), certain members of management for ETP and ETE, ETE, and Southern Union. The lawsuit is styled W. J. Garrett Trust v. Bill W. Byrne, et al., Cause No. 2011-71702, in the 157th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas. Plaintiffs assert claims for breaches of fiduciary duty, breaches of contractual duties, and acts of bad faith against each of the ETP Defendants and the individual defendants. Plaintiffs also assert claims for aiding and abetting and tortious interference with contract against Southern Union. On October 5, 2012, certain defendants filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to the primary allegations in this action. On December 13, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Defendants filed a reply on December 19, 2012. On December 20, 2012, the court conducted an oral hearing on the motion. Plaintiffs filed a post-hearing sur-reply on January 7, 2013. On January 16, 2013, the Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The parties agreed to settle the matter and executed a memorandum of understanding. The parties are drafting a stipulation of settlement (with proposed judgment) and will have a settlement hearing likely in August 2013 for the Court to approve the settlement, which will dispose of the case. It is unlikely the Court will reject the settlement.
Mercury Release. In October 2004, New England Gas Company discovered that one of its facilities, formerly associated with discontinued operations which were sold in 2006, had been broken into and that mercury had been released both inside a building and in the immediate vicinity, including a parking lot in a neighborhood several blocks away. Mercury from the parking lot was apparently tracked into nearby apartment units, as well as other buildings. Cleanup was completed at the property and nearby apartment units. The vandals who broke into the facility were arrested and convicted. In October 2007, the U.S. Attorney in Rhode Island filed a three-count indictment against the Company in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island (“District Court”) alleging violation of permitting requirements under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and notification requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (“EPCRA”) relating to the 2004 incident. Trial commenced on September 22, 2008, and on October 15, 2008, the jury acquitted Southern Union on the EPCRA count and one of the two RCRA counts and found the Company guilty on the other RCRA count. On October 2, 2009, the District Court imposed a fine of $6 million and a payment of $12 million in community service.
On December 22, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (“First Circuit”) affirmed the conviction and the sentence. On February 17, 2011, the First Circuit denied the Company’s petition for en banc rehearing. The Company, on October 31, 2011, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari review by the United States Supreme Court (“Supreme Court”), which review was granted and the case was heard by the Supreme Court on March 19, 2012.
On June 21, 2012, the United States Supreme Court reversed the First Circuit, holding that the sentence imposed on the Company was unconstitutional, and remanded the case back to the District Court for further proceeding consistent with that holding.
On July 17, 2012, the Government moved for “clarification” of the First Circuit’s December 22, 2010 decision urging the First Circuit to find that, in addition to resolving whether (i) the alternative fine statute increases the maximum fine that may be imposed on the Company from $50,000 to $500,000; (ii) the $12 million community service obligation is a fine or restitution; and (iii) a new jury should be empanelled to hear evidence regarding the number of days RCRA was violated.
On July 26, 2012, the First Circuit vacated the fine imposed by the District Court and remanded the matter to the District Court for resentencing consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion. In the same order, the First Circuit denied without prejudice the Government’s motion for clarification, holding that the issues raised by the Government in its July 17, 2012 motion could be addressed by the parties on remand. Accordingly, the Government petitioned the District Court for consideration of the same issues and the hearing took place on December 3, 2012. The District Court has ruled in favor of the Company and limited the penalty to “community service” of up to $500,000.
Litigation Related to Incident at JJ's Restaurant. On February 19, 2013, there was a natural gas explosion at JJ's Restaurant located at 910 W. 48th Street in Kansas City, Missouri. One person died and media reports indicate that up to fifteen people were transported to area hospitals. The extent and nature of those injuries are currently unknown. The restaurant building was destroyed in the explosion and fire. Immediately surrounding buildings sustained damage, but the full extent of that damage is unknown at this time. A contractor, Heartland Midwest LLC, was in the process of installing cable for Time Warner Cable and hit a natural gas line while directionally boring. The utility locates for the work were done by USIC Locating Services, Inc., a utility infrastructure locating company engaged by Missouri Gas Energy to locate and mark underground gas lines (and engaged by others to mark other underground facilities). Several parties have retained counsel, and to date, nine lawsuits have been filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, against numerous defendants. MGE and a MGE employee, Michael Palier, are defendants in all but one of the lawsuits (Palier v. Time Warner). The lawsuits filed to date include Simmons v. MGE, Case No. 1316-CV07265 (no trial date set); Tanner v. MGE, Case No. 1316-CV09906 (no trial date set), JJ's Restaurant v. MGE, Case No. 1316-CV11288 (two trial dates set on January 12, 2015 and April 6, 2015); Meek