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Roxul USA, Inc. v. Board of Education of County of Jefferson

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

May 7, 2019

ROXUL USA, INC., a Delaware corporation, d/b/a, “ROCKWOOL, ” Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE COUNTY OF JEFFERSON, a West Virginia county board of education, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF HEARING GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          GINA M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 30, 2019, and May 1, 2019, the parties in the above-styled civil action appeared before the Court for a hearing on the Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 2. James A. Walls, Joseph V. Schaeffer and James C. Walls, III, appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff, Roxul USA, Inc. (“Rockwool”). Anthony J. Majestro and Courtney B. Harden appeared on behalf of the Defendant, Board of Education of the County of Jefferson (“BOE”). After reviewing the parties' briefs, considering the evidence presented, and carefully analyzing the controlling law, the Court GRANTED the motion for a preliminary injunction for the reasons provided herein.

         I. Background

         This civil action arises from the BOE's threatened condemnation of Rockwool's 194-acre real property located in Ranson, West Virginia. The background of that dispute is as follows.

         Rockwool is “the world's leading manufacturer of environmentally-friendly stone wool insulation.” ECF No. 18 at 1. In late 2016, Rockwool began considering fifty sites as locations for its new manufacturing facility in the United States. Id. Rockwool was recruited to Ranson, West Virginia by a “wide array of state and local officials.” Id. In connection with those recruiting efforts, local officials, including the BOE, offered Rockwool tax incentives if it agreed to build its new facility in Ranson, West Virginia. Id. Rockwool accepted that offer, and in October 2017, Rockwool entered into a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement (“PILOT”) with the BOE and others. See ECF No. 18-1.

         In November 2017, Rockwool began site preparation and construction on its new facility. ECF No. 18 at 2. To date, Rockwool has spent more than $49 million on permitting, constructing and extending utilities to its new facility. Id.; see Peter Regenberg Hr'g Test. However, since beginning construction, Rockwool has faced significant public backlash, not present during the negotiation of the PILOT agreement, over health concerns related to the facility's potential emissions. For example, Jefferson County citizens have “implored the [BOE] to either oppose the building of Rockwool or to request additional information so that an informed decision could be made regarding student safety.” ECF No. 34-3 at 4.

         Despite having signed the PILOT agreement, demonstrating support for the Rockwool facility, the BOE now opposes the construction. Specifically, the BOE has publicly withdrawn its support for the Rockwool facility, demanded a “non-negotiable” independent human health risk assessment, requested a moratorium on construction, and threatened to terminate the PILOT. ECF No. 34-3, 34-4. Most recently, on April 9, 2019, the BOE informed Rockwool that it intended to buy or condemn Rockwool's land, identifying the need for a Regional Student Support Center (“Student Support Center”).

         Thereafter, on April 12, 2019, Rockwool filed the complaint in this action seeking to enjoin the BOE from condemning its land. ECF No. 1. Contemporaneously, Rockwool filed a motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. ECF No. 2. The Court scheduled a hearing on Rockwool's motion for April 30, 2019. ECF No. 5. After hearing all the evidence, the Court granted Rockwool's motion for a preliminary injunction for the reasons provided herein.

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citing Munaf, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008)). To succeed on a motion for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must make a “clear showing” that “he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20, 22. “All four requirements must be satisfied.” Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Elec. Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2009) (vacated and remanded on other grounds).

         If the court grants a motion for a preliminary injunction it must: (1) state the reasons why the injunction was issued; (2) state the injunction's terms specifically; and (3) describe in reasonable detail the act or acts restrained or required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(d)(1). Additionally, the court may grant a preliminary injunction “only if the movant gives security in an amount that the court considers proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(c). In the Fourth Circuit, “this rule is mandatory and unambiguous.” Hoechst Diafoil Co. v. Nan Ya Plastics Corp., 174 F.3d 411, 421 (4th Cir. 1999). “Although the district court has discretion to set bond amount in such sum as the court deems proper, it is not free to disregard the bond requirement altogether.” Id. “[F]ailure to require bond upon issuing injunctive relief is reversible error.” Id.

         III. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

         Here, the Court found that an injunction was warranted because: (1) Rockwool is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims; (2) Rockwool is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in Rockwool's favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. These issues are discussed in turn.

         A. Rockwool is likely to succeed on the ...


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