Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Dec 01 2014

Dear Friends,


In this issue, you will see our work this past month to protect Hanford workers, fight for marriage equality, defend the will of voters regarding marijuana legalization, and clarify the use of police body cameras.

Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office proudly recognized Native American History Month in November with programs that connect the office with our tribal communities. 

Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office. 

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Holiday Season!



Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General


Notice of Endangerment and Intent to Sue

Hanford Press ConferenceI recently placed the federal government on notice that I intend to sue the Department of Energy (DOE) unless immediate action is taken to protect the health and safety of Hanford tank farm workers.

Worker safety at Hanford has been a problem for decades.  Hundreds of workers have been exposed to toxic vapors that leak from aging storage tanks, suffering an array of health problems, including several long-term disabilities.   Despite the many reports documenting these problems over the past 20 years, workers are still not adequately protected.

Following the release of this disturbing Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment report, I sent DOE and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, this Notice of Endangerment and Intent to Sue.   Federal law requires such notice be given 90 days before filing a lawsuit against a federal agency. 

The 90-day clock is now ticking.  My goal is to obtain a legally enforceable agreement to ensure the federal government protects workers from the vapors.  The time for studying the problem is over.  We must now take action.

This Seattle Times Editorial provides an in-depth look at this issue.

Editorial: Better safeguards needed for Hanford nuclear tank-farm workers

King 5 News

Wash. plans to sue federal gov't to protect Hanford workers


Attorney General Promises Hanford Workers Progress

AGO Opinion addresses use of police body cameras

PoliceI recently issued an opinion concluding that law enforcement agencies can require their officers to wear body cameras, and officers do not need citizen permission to use body cameras on the job to record interactions with the public.   We issued the opinion in response to questions raised by Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane concerning whether the use of body cameras might violate the state’s Privacy Act.    Our legal analysis determined that interactions with on-duty police officers are presumed to be public, and body camera recordings must be preserved in accordance with the state’s Public Records Act.

Read the opinion

AGO 2014 No. 8


Legal opinion: No permission needed for police body cams


Editorial: For police and public, cameras are a good tool

More judges agree with AGO opinion on local marijuana bans

gavelTwo additional superior court judges affirmed a legal opinion issued by my office in January which concluded that I-502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses. 

Following similar rulings in Fife and Wenatchee, a Benton County judge upheld the city of Kennewick’s ban on marijuana businesses and a Cowlitz County judge upheld a Clark County ban.   The rulings allow implementation of I-502 to continue.   The Attorney General’s Office intervened in these cases to defend I-502, and we will continue working aggressively to uphold the will of voters.

More on the issue in this Yakima Herald article

Fourth judge upholds pot business ban

Advancing Marriage Equality for All

Marriage EqualityMarriage equality gained important ground when Shriners Hospitals for Children agreed to extend health benefits to same-sex couples in all of their 22 hospitals nationwide after being contacted by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

My office contacted Shriners about their health benefits policies after receiving a complaint from a Spokane hospital employee who had recently married her partner of 19 years.   When she attempted to add her new spouse as a dependent on her medical and dental policies, human resources staff denied her request. 

Soon after our contact, Shriners changed its policy and will offer health benefits to same-sex couples.    We continue our work to ensure employers understand and honor their legal responsibilities to provide equal benefits to their employees.


Shriners hospitals to give gay couples benefits after Spokane complaint


Shriners Hospitals extending health benefits nationwide to same-sex spouses

Connecting with local and tribal communities

I want to express my thanks to the Cowlitz and Makah tribal members and spiritual leaders who visited my office to share the history of their annual Tribal Canoe Journey, and to Suquamish Tribal Council Chairman Leonard Forsman for his presentation on tribal history and culture.

I am also grateful to members and leaders of the Tulalip, Lummi, and Skagit tribes for their hospitality during my recent visits.   Since taking office, I have visited 27 of the 29 federally recognized tribes in our state, working to support and encourage partnerships between state and tribal governments.

Ferguson File