Recently a California Court of Appeal affirmed a superior court's judgment and order confirming that the City of San Leandro (City) had not abused its discretion by waiving a bid defect and awarding the public project contract to that bidder. The court, in Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc. v. City of San Leandro, Case No. A137971 (Jan. 28, 2014), rejected Bay Cities Paving & Grading, Inc.'s (Bay Cities) contention that the City improperly awarded the contract to Oliver Desilva, Inc. dba Gallagher & Burk (hereafter G&B) because G&B inadvertently omitted the first page of its bid bond, a bond required by the contract specifications. The court found that the City had before it the information needed to determine that G&B had satisfied the bid bond requirement when it concluded that G&B was the lowest responsible bidder.
Star Equipment, Ltd., Manatt's, Inc., and Short's Concrete Cutting Co. recently secured a victory in the Iowa Supreme Court when the Court, in Star Equipment, Ltd., v. State of Iowa, Iowa Department of Transportation, Case No. 12-1378 (Jan. 31, 2014), reversed the district court's ruling on the scope of remedies available to subcontractors under Iowa Code § 573.2 for unpaid work. For the state projects, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) had waived the requirement of a construction surety bond because the general contractor qualified as a Targeted Small Business (TSB). Ruling in favor of the subcontractors, the Court construed Section 573.2 "as a waiver of sovereign immunity that allows subcontractors to recover from IDOT the unpaid balances TSBs owe for work on public improvements." It went on to rule that the subcontractors, as prevailing parties, are eligible, in the district court's discretion, to recover their reasonable attorneys' fees from IDOT.
With the U.S. Congress unable to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution, the U.S. federal government shut down all non-essential services on October 1, 2013. The shutdown will remain in effect until Congress passes appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2014. This Pillsbury client alert, which originally was published in March 2011, provides guidance on how a shutdown affects federal contractors and what they can do to prepare for and react to the shutdown.
There are numerous contractor-related bills making their way through the California legislature this year. The following bills, although not an all-inclusive list, are worth noting:
Assembly Bill 44 - An Act to amend, repeal, and add Public Contract Code § 4104 relating to public contracts - signed into law by the Governor September 9, 2013 and operative July 1, 2014. The Subletting and Subcontracting Fair Practices Act, Cal. Public Contracting Code §§ 4100, et seq., requires an entity taking bids for the construction of any public work or improvement to specify that any person making a bid or offer to perform the work to, in his or her bid or offer, include specified information, including the name and location of the place of business of each subcontractor who will perform work or labor or render service to the prime contractor in or about the work or improvement. Commencing on July 1, 2014, any person making a bid or offer to perform the work to, in his or her bid or offer, will be required to include the California contractor license number of each subcontractor.
In IAP World Services, Inc.; EMCOR Government Services, B-407917.2 et al. (July 10, 2013), involving a protest challenging an award by the U.S. Department of the Navy (the "Navy") for base operating support services, the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") held that the Navy unreasonably credited the joint venture awardee with the corporate experience and past performance of two affiliates of one of the joint venture partners, where the record did not demonstrate that the affiliates would play a role in contract performance.
The Milwaukee Public Museum's 8-story tower's marble façade facing West Wells Street is being replaced with 234 solar panels. It was reported that, over the past 50 years, the Museum's heavy marble façade on the south wall facing West Wells Street has weathered and become less stable. Milwaukee County, which owns the building, reportedly elected to use solar panels as the replacement option because of the energy-generating potential of solar. The Museum's solar wall is expected to generate 77,533 KW hours of electricity per year, the equivalent of having 442, 60-W light bulbs on for 8 hours every day for an entire year. For now, the Museum will be the only building in Milwaukee with a full solar wall that is generating electricity.
It was reported that Milwaukee-based manufacturer Helios USA has been contracted to produce the Museum's solar panels. Construction is expected to last approximately 5 months, commencing Monday, July 29. The initial phase, which will involve removal of the existing marble façade, is expected to take 4 weeks.
Since the California Mechanic's Lien Law was established more than 100 years ago, it has been black-letter law that a contractor or materials supplier has no right to assert a mechanic's lien against public property. Thus, contractors and material suppliers (and even legal practitioners) have resigned themselves to the notion that the only available remedies on "public projects" are claims against payment bonds and the enforcement of stop notices. Within the last few years, however, the inflexible rule that "you cannot lien public property" has begun to change. In connection with the rise of construction projects arising from public-private collaboration, courts have begun to allow claimants to assert liens against private interests in publicly-owned property.
In the 2010 South Bay Expressway case, a bankruptcy court considered whether a general contractor that built a publicly-owned toll road could pursue a mechanic's lien against a private developer's leasehold interest in that public road. The California Department of Transportation had entered into a long-term lease with the developer, whereby the developer would construct the toll road and thereafter collect tolls and operate the public road. The court held that, as long as the lien claimant sought only to encumber and foreclose upon the developer's leasehold interest, the lien was valid.
This recent legal development offers new hope to contractors that are not paid on "public projects." In the wake of the South Bay Expressway decision, claimants are successfully recording and foreclosing upon mechanic's liens on a variety of projects built on public land. For example, we've seen liens successfully asserted against, among other interests, a concessionaire's leasehold interest in concession space at a public airport and a solar company's long-term rights to operate a solar facility and sell electrical power to a municipality. In many such cases, absent the ability to enforce their lien rights, the contractors would have had no ability to enforce their rights to payment.
The bottom-line is this: a contractor should no longer assume that it has no lien rights simply because its work was completed on public property.
On July 17, 2013, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the State University of New York's (SUNY) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) will revitalize a vacant Kodak cleanroom building in Rochester, "transforming it into a first-of-its-kind CNSE Photovoltaic Manufacturing and Technology Development Facility (CNSE MDF) for crystalline silicon photovoltaics, part of a $100 million initiative that will attract solar energy jobs and companies to the Greater Rochester Area." This effort will also include the acquisition and relocation to the CNSE MDF of "the assets of Silicon Valley solar company SVTC as part of a $100M initiative that will create over 100 high-tech jobs and positions New York as the national leader in accelerating innovative solar technologies."
The project is expected to set "a precedent for further investment in this green industry in New York State" and to "attract additional investments from companies around the world and accelerate our development and use of solar energy," growing New York's clean energy economy. It is reportedly the "first initiative as part of the project will relocate a critical component of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot initiative from California's Silicon Valley to Upstate New York, positioning New York as the recognized national leader in accelerating the development and use of solar energy nationwide."
Renovation of the former Kodak's MEMS inkjet facility is underway to transform the 57,000-square-foot building at 115 Canal Landing Boulevard in the Canal Ponds Business Park. The initiative will include the fitting up of a state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot cleanroom. The press release confirms that a late fall opening is anticipated.
As part of the CNSE MDF project, it was reported that "over $19 million in cutting-edge tools and equipment formerly utilized by SVTC, a Silicon Valley-based solar energy company, are being relocated to the CNSE MDF and will constitute the foundation of the manufacturing development line, a result of the acquisition of SVTC's assets by CNSE." It further confirmed that the U.S. Department of Energy "is providing nearly $11 million in cash funding to support procurement and installation of high-tech tools and equipment, with investment from private industry partners expected to exceed $65 million to support the development and operation of the CNSE MDF." In addition, it was reported that, "[t]o support the project, New York State will invest $4.8 million through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)." New York's investment is to be directed entirely to CNSE with no private company to receive any state funds as part of the initiative.
This is to be the solar industry's first full-service collaborative facility dedicated to advancing crystalline silicon, or c-Si technologies. The CNSE MDF will provide a range of services and equipment, including complete manufacturing lines, access to individual tools, secure fab space for users' proprietary tools, and pilot production services in an intellectual property secure environment. It is expected that the CNSE MDF will attract solar industry companies to New York to access a state-of-the-art resource that will dramatically reduce the cost, time, and risk associated with transitioning innovative solar technologies from research to commercial manufacturing of crystalline silicon photovoltaics. It is also expected to play a critical role in the national effort to develop a strong photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industry, and serve to accelerate the introduction and use of solar energy in homes and businesses across the country. Among other things, it is expected to enable education and training to support the expansion of the highly skilled workforce required by the U.S. PV manufacturing industry.
The establishment of the CNSE MDF for c-Si PV technology is also expected to complement and expand the capabilities and expertise of the national U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC), headquartered at CNSE as part of the DOE's SunShot Initiative. The PVMC is reportedly leading the national effort to reduce the cost of installed solar energy systems from $5 per watt to less than $1 per watt over the next 10 years.
Governor Cuomo's announcement comes on the heels of his July 9, 2013 announcement that $54 Million will be awarded to fund 79 large-scale solar power projects across the State of New York, adding 64 MWs to the state's solar capacity.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post, California More Than Doubles Solar Energy In 2013 (Jan. 13, 2014): "California installed more megawatts of solar energy in 2013 than it did in the last 30 years combined, the California Solar Energy Industries Association reported ... 'Today, California is closing out the year with more than 2,000 MW of rooftop solar systems installed statewide,' CALSEIA executive director Bernadette Del Chiaro said."
On July 10, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued its California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment on the progress of the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The Assessment reflects that the program has installed 66% of its total goal with another 19% reserved in pending projects. This is an estimated 1,629 MW of installed solar capacity at 167,878 customer sites in the investor-owned utility territories through the end of the first quarter of 2013. The CPUC estimates that this is enough to power approximately 150,000 homes and avoid building three power plants. To read the Assessment, click California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment.
In January 2007, California began an $3.3 billion ratepayer-funded effort to install 3,000 MW of new solar over the next decade and transform the market for solar energy by reducing the cost of solar generating equipment. The CPUC's portion of the solar effort is known as the CSI. The CPUC boasts that is the country's largest solar program and has a $2.2 billion budget and a goal of 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.
In early July, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the withdrawal of lands identified for solar energy development in the West from new mining claims that could impede development of solar energy sites. Public Land Order No. 7818 (PLO 7818) withdraws 303,900 acres of land within 17 Solar Energy Zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. You can read the PLO 7818 here.
At the 2013 North America Intersolar Conference in San Francisco, California Governor Jerry Brown, and many others spoke confidently about solar opportunities in California. "Just within the last two months we actually recorded over 2,000 MW of solar energy being put into the grid...," Governor Brown reported. He also confirmed his "goal of 1 million solar rooftops." He encourages a call to action, marshaling "intelligence and collaboration and political response..." You can hear Governor Brown's 2013 North America Intersolar Conference Keynote Address here.
Governor Brown launched California's first round of solar incentives in 1978, during his first two-term tenure as the Governor of the State of California. California now puts more than 2,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of solar power into its grid, and Governor Brown wants to see 1 million GWh by 2025, to meet the 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. The state now has 130,000 photovoltaics (PV) installations on homes and businesses, growing toward Governor Brown's stated goal of a million solar roofs.
On June 21, 2013, the government issued an interim rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation ("FAR") to remove the dollar limits on contracts that may be set aside for Women-Owned Small Businesses ("WOSB") and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses ("EDWOSB"). The FAR rule conforms to a final rule issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration ("SBA") on May 7, 2013. This change should greatly increase the number and dollar value of contracts federal agencies set aside for WOSBs and EDWOSBs in the future.
Since we last checked in on California's planned high speed rail system nearly a year ago, it has continued to take baby steps toward construction.
Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News notes here that on June 6 the California High Speed Rail Authority's (CHSRA) board authorized its CEO to negotiate final terms of a contract for the first phase of construction with a Tutor Perini-led group after its $985 million bid beat its nearest competitor by about $100 million and the initial estimate by over $200 million.
The project also avoided a potential roadblock with the June 13, 2013 decision of the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to grant the CHSRA an exemption allowing it to proceed with construction without subjecting itself to the STB's approval requirements in addition to the hurdles already cleared. The STB's decision, effective June 28 according to its text, is available here.
On March 1, 2013, President Obama ordered the implementation of across-the-board cuts - sequestration - primarily directed to military and domestic discretionary spending because the White House and congressional leaders could not agree to an alternative. The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 2011 requires this sequestration, which means that the executive branch must implement $85 billion in cuts over the remaining months of Fiscal Year 2013. This alert provides background on the expected cuts and how the sequestration may affect contractors. Notably, the sequestration is separate from the continuing resolution funding the federal government that ends on March 27, 2013. If Congress does not act to fund discretionary spending for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, then the government will shut down. We have also prepared pointers for federal contractors in the event of a shutdown.