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Texas group sues DHS over selection of Kansas site for NBAF lab

A Texas consortium is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over its rejection of a San Antonio site for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

The consortium will ask a federal judge next month to issue an injunction blocking the awarding of bids for NBAF, a $650-million lab that will be the nation’s premier biodefense research facility. In December, DHS selected a site on the Manhattan, KS, campus of Kansas State University for NBAF, which will replace a 50-year-old lab on Plum Island, NY.

According to a report in BioRegion News, Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which hears cases of private claims against the federal government, has set June 8 as the date for hearing arguments on her court’s jurisdiction and standing to hear the case.

The Texas Bio- & Agro-Defense Consortium is seeking a preliminary injunction blocking DHS from proceeding with development of the facility. The group claims that the decision to locate NBAF in Kansas was ”arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion and otherwise contrary to law.”

Today is the deadline DHS set for delivery of final bids for construction of the NBAF facility.

The consortium’s lawsuit claims that Kansas had unfair influence with the DHS official overseeing the NBAF review, that DHS favored the state because it promised more in incentive packages than Texas did, and that DHS failed to consider the risk that the Kansas site may experience a severe tornado.

The proposed Texas NBAF site is a 100-acre tract within the 1,236-acre Texas Research Park, straddling Bexar and Medina Counties. The research park site is a few miles west of the city of San Antonio.

The federal lawsuit, entitled Texas Bio- & Agro-Defense Consortium v. the United States, was filed April 23. On May 1, Williams granted a motion by the Kansas consortium allowing it to enter the lawsuit as an ”intervenor” siding with the U.S. government in the June 8 arguments. DHS contends the Court of Claims should not hear the case, arguing that the NBAF selection process did not constitute a procurement. Texas disagrees, citing the pending construction contract as well as a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that defined procurement broadly enough to include pre-procurement planning.

BioRegion News reports that the Texas consortium is claiming Kansas had an unfair edge with the DHS official overseeing the NBAF review, Undersecretary Jay Cohen, because as a U.S. Navy official he approved an unspecified earmark sought by Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Hastert reportedly was hired to lobby for the Kansas site.

 

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