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Media Advisory
February 19, 1998

Bob Schaeffer, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability 617-489-0461
Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group 505-982-7747
Jay Coghlan, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety 505-986-1973

Watchdog Groups Seek Criminal, Civil Penalties Against DOE for Failure to Adequately Plan Vast Cleanup Project

Washington, DC
On Friday, February 20, 1998, 2:00 pm, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Sporkin will hear oral argument on a contempt motion seeking criminal and civil penalties against U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Federico Pena and his senior aides for failing to implement a court-approved agreement to conduct a comprehensive analysis of DOE's plans and programs to clean up the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. 

The contempt motion was filed by 39 watchdog and nuclear policy organizations from around the nation, representing both local citizens and national policy experts. The plaintiffs are represented by Barbara Finamore of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

In 1990, in order to settle a lawsuit brought by many of the same groups, DOE agreed to prepare a detailed environmental study of its plans to clean up the toxic U.S. nuclear weapons archipelago.  This study would have included policy alternatives for large-scale nuclear waste transport and disposal, clean-up levels at the various sites, long-term monitoring, and the impact of newly-generated nuclear wastes on DOE's clean-up program. 

The clean-up project, estimated to cost in excess of $250 billion, is one of the largest engineering projects in the history of civilization. So far, it has been proceeding without a coherent overall plan, with large government contractors -- in many cases the same defense contractors that created the messes -- all but dictating cleanup strategies.  The DOE has become largely a "shell" agency, contracting out (according to a report from the House of Representatives) fully 83% of its total workload, with contractors not only planning cleanup but writing speeches, analyzing legislation, etc. 

Last year, the plaintiff groups went back to federal court charging that DOE failed to abide by the 1990 stipulation by -- among other actions -- refusing to undertake a review of its long-term clean-up programs under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

On October 28, 1997, Judge Sporkin, who has jurisdiction over the entire case, urged plaintiffs to file an "order to show cause" why DOE should not be held in contempt and subject to sanctions for its failure to honor its prior commitment to complete a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). 

In addition to sanctions against Sec. Pena and his aides, the motion asks the court to order DOE to complete a PEIS on Environmental Restoration and Waste Management and seeks cancellation of DOE's Records of Decision (RODs) on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Management of Transuranic Waste. 

Copies of court documents, including the plaintiffs' contempt motion, are available on request.

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