Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality v. Pacific Chlorine, Inc.Annotate this Case
Vicksburg Chemical Company (VCC) filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Included in its bankruptcy estate was over 500 acres of real property, a portion of which was contaminated. Pursuant to an agreed order, the bankruptcy court allowed VCC to abandon the property and allowed the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to choose the purchaser. Without the aid of any guidelines or statutory law regarding this process, MDEQ, at the suggestion of the Attorney General's Office (AG), published a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify interested parties capable of removing the contamination. The plaintiff, Pacific Chlorine, Inc. (PCI), was one of several companies to submit a proposal. MDEQ did not select PCI's proposal, but instead selected Harcros Chemicals, Inc. (Harcros), a company which worked closely with the City of Vicksburg (the City) on its proposal. Aggrieved, PCI sued MDEQ and the City. PCI settled with the City. Following a bench trial, the trial court rendered a judgment against MDEQ. MDEQ appealed to the Supreme Court, raising six assignments of error that fall into three categories: whether PCI is required to exhaust its administrative remedies, whether the trial court erred by denying MDEQ's motion to dismiss/motion for summary judgment, and whether MDEQ is immune from suit under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). This case presented an issue of first impression, the issue being whether MDEQ acted within the scope of its authority when assisting a bankruptcy court with finding a purchaser for contaminated land. The Court found that it was.