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