Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
May 12 2015

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today commented on an order issued Monday by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in the Hanford Site litigation.

In the ruling, Chief Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson found that the parties, including the State of Washington, met their burden to show changed circumstances warranting revision of the Hanford Consent Decree — a legally binding agreement which lays out timelines and obligations for some aspects of cleanup at the Hanford nuclear site.

“It is imperative that the federal government be held accountable for cleaning up the nuclear waste at Hanford,” said Attorney General Ferguson. “This week, the court agreed that the current consent decree is unworkable and that the federal government has failed to meet many of its obligations. We must have a legally enforceable agreement that adequately protects Washington’s environment and holds the U.S. Department of Energy accountable for clean-up.”

The parties to the litigation — Washington, Oregon and the U.S. Department of Energy — will now have an opportunity to submit further materials supporting their proposed consent decree revisions, after which the court will likely schedule oral argument and possibly an evidentiary hearing.

Background

The Hanford Site is a World War II- and Cold War-era nuclear reservation operated by the U.S. federal government in southeastern Washington.  Hanford’s 586 square miles currently house some 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 underground tanks — enough to fill roughly 88 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Most of these tanks are of single-shell construction, and many have leaked.

A federal court consent decree and the Hanford Tri-Party Agreement require USDOE to retrieve and treat Hanford’s tank waste and safely close Hanford’s unfit-for-use single-shell tanks.

The Washington Attorney General's Office has historically played a significant role in enforcing the requirements of the Tri-Party Agreement and ensuring that the cleanup work continues on schedule and in a manner that protects the environment, public health, and the safety of workers performing this important task.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contact:

Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov