OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) – Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee issued new demands on Monday to the U.S. Department of Energy to ensure timely cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste at Hanford.
Ferguson and Inslee proposed revisions to a 2010 consent decree that would prevent the federal government from delaying cleanup of Hanford’s hazardous waste. The federal government has repeatedly said it would not be able to meet important cleanup deadlines.
“Today, the state is demanding the federal government meet its legal commitments at Hanford,” Ferguson said. “We are proposing new requirements to increase accountability, protect the environment, and reduce the possibility of further delays.”
The state’s plan would require a revised step-by-step schedule to complete construction of a waste treatment plant and begin treating waste as soon as possible, new specific requirements to get the waste out of the leaky single-shell tanks as soon as possible, new environmental safety requirements for groundwater treatment and regular progress reports filed with the state and the court.
In 1989, the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology signed the Tri-Party Agreement to establish a plan to clean up waste at Hanford. Ferguson’s office filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2008 when it was clear the U.S. DOE would be unable to meet agreement deadlines. The state and federal government settled the lawsuit in 2010 and agreed upon a series of new deadlines.
The federal government has since informed the state that almost all the deadlines in the agreement are in jeopardy. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. DOE must notify the state by April 15 whether or not it accepts the state’s proposed plan. If it does not accept the plan, the federal government must explain the reasons for disagreement.
If the state does not hear from the U.S. DOE by April 15, the state may ask the court to impose new requirements, even over objections from the department.