Oglethorpe Power Corp. – Electronic Discovery Plan Helps Resolve Nuke Plant Dispute
Based in Tucker, Ga., outside Atlanta, client Oglethorpe Power Corporation is one of the nation’s largest power supply cooperatives, serving 38 electric membership corporations that provide electricity to more than 4.2 million Georgia residents. Oglethorpe also is one of four owners of Vogtle Electric Generating Plant (Plant Vogtle), a two-unit (reactor) nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga. Since 2006, planning and construction have been underway on expanding Plant Vogtle by building Units 3 and 4. In late 2012, Oglethorpe and the other three owners filed suit in federal court against the contractor consortium responsible for engineering and building the new units, Westinghouse Electric Company and Stone & Webster. The dispute focused on who would pay for design changes costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Arnall Golden Gregory represented Oglethorpe, a 30 percent owner of the nuclear plant, in one of the biggest construction litigation cases in the country.
After the terrorist attacks on New York’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) mandated that nuclear power plant domes be built to withstand the impact of an aircraft crash. The owners claimed that the design changes in dispute, including strengthening the dome to withstand aircraft impact, were not due to new law requirements but were the result of the contractors’ deficiencies. The defendants, however, claimed the contract terms required the owners to pay for the change orders. The law firms involved were at odds over how to conduct electronic discovery in the case. AGG studied the problem and developed an electronic discovery plan that lawyers from all parties agreed was the optimum approach. That was critical in moving discovery forward. AGG lawyers also took part in depositions, formed opinions about the strengths of the client’s case and advised the client about strategy in the event of trial. As discovery proceeded, efforts were made to reach a settlement.
In late 2015, the parties reached a settlement that was highly satisfactory to Oglethorpe. Oglethorpe Power President & CEO Michael L. Smith said in a statement, “This agreement resolves outstanding issues on the project and provides a clean slate for the project going forward while maintaining the current construction schedule of June 2019 for Unit 3 and June 2020 for Unit 4.”
- Jeffrey Y. Lewis
- C. Knox Withers