Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jul 16 2004

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Gary Locke and Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced that Washington state intends to sue the federal Department of Energy (DOE) to halt further shipments of waste to Hanford because the agency has not fully complied with federal environmental laws.

Next week, attorneys for the state will ask a federal judge for permission to expand the state's original lawsuit, Washington v. Abraham, to include low-level and mixed low-level radioactive waste. The original lawsuit, filed in 2003, involves only shipments of transuranic waste.

The state intends to challenge the adequacy of DOE's environmental analysis, including the recently released Hanford Solid Waste Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The state believes the EIS does not comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

"Even if the EIS does comply with NEPA, the federal government should be barred from importing to Hanford until it is compliant with all cleanup law," Locke said.

The state will argue that DOE has never provided a full accounting of the basis for its selection of Hanford as the disposal site for huge amounts of waste from around the country, and has done an inadequate analysis of the environmental risk posed by the massive ground water contamination at Hanford.

"DOE has failed to prove that shipping more waste to Hanford won't make the nation's most contaminated site even worse," Gregoire said. "We expect DOE to fully comply with environmental safeguards and honor their Tri-Party clean-up commitments before any more waste is added to an already troubled situation."

In the lawsuit, the state will contest DOE's decision that some ground water at Hanford is "irreversibly and irretrievably committed." "The federal government cannot be allowed to walk away from cleaning up the ground water at Hanford," Gregoire said.

Locke said, "The Department of Energy's commitment to cleaning up Hanford seems to change with the seasons. Under this latest EIS, they want to walk away from the contamination in the ground water, and there's nothing to keep them from tripling the amount of waste shipments they want to bring to Hanford. We need absolute certainty that the clean up work will be completed before we are willing to even consider allowing more waste to come into the system."

The state will seek an injunction halting further waste shipments of low-level and mixed low-level waste until DOE adequately addresses the environmental effects of shipping and storing more radioactive waste at Hanford.

Under DOE's plan, approximately 62,000 cubic meters of off-site radioactive waste, 20,000 cubic meters of off-site mixed low-level waste, and 15,500 cubic meters of transuranic waste would be shipped to Hanford.

But the EIS that DOE's plan is based on allows for as much as 219,663 cubic meters of low-level waste and 140,435 cubic meters of mixed low-level waste to be brought to Hanford.