Morning Briefing - January 07, 2020
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January 07, 2020

Energy Department, Washington State to Litigate Data Access, Fine

By ExchangeMonitor

The Washington state Department of Ecology is making good on last month’s threat to fine the U.S. Department of Energy $1 million for denial of access to certain records for the Hanford Site.

The state announced the fine Monday after DOE appealed Ecology’s Dec. 5 ruling finding Hanford officials are wrongly withholding information. The appeal was filed Friday with the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

“Without access to this data, we can’t effectively protect the land, air and water for residents in Eastern Washington and surrounding communities,” said Ecology Department Acting Director Polly Zehm said in a press release announcing the penalty.

“For years, [DOE] has provided information that Ecology and EPA have requested to conduct their regulatory duties, and we met numerous Tri-Party Agreement milestones for providing information, the Energy Department said in statement issued through a spokesperson.

The Tri-Party Agreement of 1989 signed by the state, DOE and EPA lays out remediation milestones for the former plutonium manufacturing site, and also specifies what type of information should be shared.

In its press release the state agency noted that Hanford has 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical wastes held in 177 underground tanks, and more than a million gallons has leaked from the aging storage tanks over time.

The state’s inspectors cannot verify that DOE is effectively protecting the environment without access to necessary data, according to the Ecology release.

The Energy Department argues it must comply with both the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy, and the latter sometimes requires certain confidential business information not be shared with other agencies.