Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Consolidated Edison Co. of New York reported an agreement in principle yesterday to settle their uranium contract litigation.
For U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. the settlement announcement marked the first time in four years that his pending docket has been clear of Westinghouse uranium contract disputes. Two cases remain unsettled, but both have been tried and now await a decision.
At the request of Con Ed, the companies put out a joint press release. The statement, unlike those that have been issued with other settlement announcements, contained no details on the terms of the agreement. Traditionally, the utilities have placed a greater value on the settlement than the cost Westinghouse has established in meeting the various terms and conditions.
Had it not been for the settlement, much of which was hammered out at the courthouse over the weekend, Merhige would have been devoting his time yesterday to the start of a jury trial involving the two companies.
In addition to the agreement with Con Ed, Westinghouse has two other tentative settlements, with Kansas Gas and Electric Co. and Union Electric Co. of St. Louis, that await final resolution. If all three can be concluded, Westinghouse will have settled 15 of the original 17 uranium supply lawsuits.
The 15 settlements would account for slightly more than 85 percent of the total uranium originally claimed by the utilities.
Westinghouse counsel John S. Battle Jr. said much of the credit for the Con Ed settlement ought to go to Dean William B. Spong Jr. of the College of William and Mary law school, who "worked long and hard over the weekend in furtherance of this effort."
Spong, who has served as Merhige's special settlement negotiator during the proceedings, recommended that the judge accept the proposal offered by the two companies and described the negotiations which took place as being among the most hard-fought of any in which he had participated.
Merhige said that through Spong he has always been aware of the status of the settlement negotiations that have taken place.
"But in this particular one, perhaps more than in some others," he said, " I was more personally involved in that I spent 12 hours or more on Sunday observing what turned out to be the final negotiations."
The judge jokingly declared that none of the negotiators, including Con Ed President Arthur Hauspurg, had been held hostage, although "somebody suggest I was present to make sure nobody escaped."
Richmond Times-Dispatch at B-5 (January 6, 1980)
Cooper, Elliott, "Westinghouse Accord Clears Court Docket" (1980). 1976–1985: William B. Spong, Jr.. 34.