U.S. ENERGY DEPT. CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT
 
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 1998 17:42:07 -0800 (PST)
From: marylia  <marylia@igc.or>
To: nukenet@envirolink.org, careerpro@igc.org
Subject: contempt motion filed re: DOE failure 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 1998

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation (510)839-5877
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs (510)443-7148
Barbara Finamore, Natural Resources Defense Council (202)289-2371


U.S. ENERGY DEPT. CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT FOR FAILURE TO COMPLETE MAJOR
NUCLEAR WEAPONS ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY; PLAINTIFFS ASK FEDERAL COURT TO
IMPRISON SEC. PENA AND TOP AIDES, ASSESS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FINES AND
CANCEL ILLEGAL DECISIONS

A coalition of nearly forty environmental and peace groups including the
Oakland-based Western States Legal Foundation and Livermore's Tri-Valley
CAREs today asked a federal judge to find U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Secretary Federico Pena and other senior agency officials in contempt for
DOE's ongoing failure to honor a court order to complete a thorough
analysis of the U.S. nuclear weapons clean-up program.

The contempt motion filed with District Judge Stanley Sporkin seeks
imprisonment of Pena and two top deputies until DOE produces a binding
schedule for preparing and issuing a Programmatic Environmental Impact
Statement (PEIS) on the agency's Environmental Restoration and Waste
Management program. DOE had agreed to complete the PEIS in a stipulation
signed by Judge Sporkin in October, 1990, to settle a lawsuit brought by
many of the same groups.

Plaintiffs are also asking the federal court to order DOE to withdraw its
recent decisions concerning the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and policies
for treating and storing transuranic wastes because they are not based on a
complete analysis of environmental impacts and alternatives.

For DOE's "neglect, failure, and willful refusal to comply with and obey
the stipulation," plaintiffs are seeking more than $5 million dollars in
punitive fines and a penalty of $5,000 per day if the PEIS is not completed
within one year, as well as compensatory damages to cover their costs and
attorneys fees for bringing the contempt action. The fines and penalties
would fund public monitoring of DOE environmental programs. At a court
session last October 27, Judge Sporkin invited plaintiffs to file a motion
seeking to hold DOE in contempt for its failure to honor its commitment to
complete a PEIS. Judge Sporkin encouraged the naming of a specific DOE
official who would be subject to imprisonment. Simultaneously, Judge
Sporkin urged the parties to seek a negotiated settlement. For the past
three months, plaintiffs say they have attempted to get senior DOE
officials to agree to fulfill their legal obligations. But, according to
Barbara Finamore, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council who
represents the groups, " The agency slammed the door on further
discussions."

"The plaintiffs spent months discussing a settlement with DOE
representatives," charged Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western
States Legal Foundation, a plaintiff in the suit. "Then, they just pulled
the rug out from under us. It's clear they were not negotiating in good
faith. We had no choice but to go forward with this extreme action."

"Defendants had knowledge of a clear and unambiguous court order, one which
they agreed to in writing," Ms. Finamore continued. "Yet, they willfully
failed to comply, a position DOE leaders maintain to this day. The contempt
motion is designed to force DOE to obey the court's order to analyze the
impacts of and alternatives to the nation's most expensive clean-up
program."

"The DOE has reneged on a fundamental legal commitment to look at various
cleanup options. So, how can we, who live in the communities surrounding
these facilities, trust the Department to make good on its obligation to
actually clean up the toxic and radioactive pollution at its sites?" asked
Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Citizens Against a
Radioactive Environment, and a close neighbor of the DOE's Livermore Lab.
"The Lab's budget for cleaning up its mess -- including the contaminated
groundwater plume beneath my house-- is steadily decreasing. We are
becoming alarmed by the possibility DOE will walk away from the task
leaving us and our children at risk."

Without approval of the court or plaintiffs, DOE decided only to pursue an
evaluation of its waste management activities. No review of the agency's
plans to clean up the legacy of nuclear weapons production, likely to be
one of the largest environmental projects in U.S. history with an estimated
total cost of more than $250 billion, was ever conducted.

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