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The Department of Energy has awarded a $109 million contract to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, despite still-existing conflicts that kept the firm out of a similar contract nine years ago, according to an April 3 report by the Energy Department’s inspector general. Morgan, Lewis will represent the department at hearings related to the opening of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site. The inspector general, Gregory Friedman, called the agency’s failure to document its change in policy “disturbing.” The department awarded Morgan, Lewis the lucrative contract in September 2007, following an informal bid process that Friedman called “other than competitive.” Morgan, Lewis’ contract with the Energy Department runs through 2011 and will pay the firm $47.7 million. The department has the option to extend the contract for another five years and up to $61.2 million. Jay Gutierrez, head of Morgan, Lewis’ energy practice, is the lead attorney on the project. Friedman’s probe began in December at the request of the Nevada congressional delegation. In 1999 the agency rejected a bid by Morgan, Lewis when a similar contract for legal services related to Yucca Mountain was awarded. At the time, the agency concluded that Morgan, Lewis’ representation of utilities suing the department for failing to dispose of nuclear fuel was a conflict of interest. Morgan, Lewis continues to represent 14 utilities in similar suits. In a statement, Morgan, Lewis said it was “gratified” by the report; and it confirmed that the Energy Department and the firm “acted in accordance with the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as all applicable acquisition rules.”
Nate Raymond is a reporter with The American Lawyer , an ALM publication.

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