Morning Briefing - February 10, 2020
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February 10, 2020

Energy Dept. Appeals Washington State $1 Million Fine Over Access to Information

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy last week appealed a $1 million fine filed by the Washington state Department of Ecology for allegedly withholding safety information regarding the Hanford Site.

The notice of appeal was filed Feb. 6 with the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

The federal agency on Jan. 3 appealed the underlying violation. The first pre-hearing conference on the infraction won’t occur until Feb. 26, the Energy Department brief says. Because the state waited just three days before assessing its $1 million fine, DOE decided to separately file a challenge to the amount of the fine itself.

Ecology contends its inspectors are being denied certain records necessary to determine if DOE is adequately protecting the air, water, and soil around the former plutonium manufacturing complex. The stage agency announced its fine Jan. 6. The Energy Department was “deprived of the opportunity to address the Stipulated Penalties” earlier in the legal process, it asserted in its latest brief.

Then-Ecology Director Maia Bellon ruled Dec. 5 that DOE violated the Tri-Party milestone, M-035-09K, for sharing information.

The Energy Department says it does share information with Washington regulators, but the state is not entitled to 24/7 access to a database that would include some confidential corporate information protected by federal privacy law. On the proposed $1 million penalty, DOE said the punishment does not fit the alleged offense and is far larger than typical violations issued by Ecology in the past.