Oregon AG seeks to join lawsuit over Hanford cleanup

Chris Rizo Feb. 25, 2009, 1:19pm

John Kroger (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-Oregon Attorney General John Kroger will seek to join a lawsuit against the federal government over cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Kroger and fellow Democrat Gov. Ted Kulongoski say the failed cleanup efforts threaten traditional fishing grounds of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Oregon officials said because the Columbia River flows through the former plutonium production site, the state has an interest in the case.

"Hanford poses a major risk to our health and environment," Kroger said. "It is time to clean it up."

In 1989, the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to a schedule for cleaning up at least 1,500 hazardous waste sites at Hanford.

In November, the state of Washington filed a federal lawsuit accusing the federal government of failing to adhere to the terms of the agreement.

The so-called Tri-Party agreement requires the Energy Department to stabilize the 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste currently being stored in 149 aging and leaky tanks close to the banks of the Columbia River.

In a statement, Kulongoski said federal authorities should make cleanup at the facility "a priority and meet its obligations to address the environmental and public health risks that the Hanford site continues to pose."

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, said in November that he was asking a federal court to set new deadlines for cleanup at Hanford and enforce those benchmarks.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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