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Thursday, February 23, 2006  
Lawsuit Filed to Stop Biosafety Lab

By: Author
Published In: The Independent, Livermore, Ca

An ?urgent motion for stay? and a supplemental memorandum filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late last week seeks to prevent the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from beginning operation of a new testing facility inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in April 2006. The Biosafety Level-3 Facility is slated to conduct aerosol experiments and genetic modifications using lethal pathogens such as live anthrax, plague, botulism and Q fever.

The groups? underlying lawsuit is aimed at compelling the DOE to conduct a comprehensive review of the project?s potential environmental impacts before the research facility begins operating. Plaintiffs include individuals and community groups located near the Livermore and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs.

The emergency motion brought by Oakland attorney Stephan Volker on behalf of the Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico asks the Court to step in and prevent DOE from opening the facility while the organizations? case is being reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court.

On November 29, 2005, the DOE announced in the Federal Register that it would conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, as requested by plaintiffs and required by law, for the proposed Los Alamos bio-facility. Potential earthquakes, and the need for ?additional seismic analysis,? were listed as a reason for the more stringent review to be undertaken in New Mexico.

Plaintiffs believe that Livermore and Bay Area residents deserve no less than their New Mexico counterparts. ?I am mystified as to why the Department of Energy believes it does not need to conduct the same degree of environmental review in Livermore,? commented Tri-Valley CAREs? staff attorney, Loulena Miles. ?Not only is Livermore the more crowded site, but this is where DOE has decided to experiment with deadly pathogens in a prefabricated building instead of a permanent structure.?

Plaintiffs charge that DOE failed to design the facility so that it could withstand earthquakes of magnitudes projected for the Livermore area.

Moreover, the DOE?s Environmental Assessment stated that there were ?no active faults . . . in proximity to the location of the proposed facility? and concluded that there was no potential for a significant impact to the environment from operations of the research facility. In fact, the Las Positas fault zone sits within 200 feet of the Livermore Lab, and the Greenville fault runs within one kilometer of the Lab site and has damaged Livermore in the past.

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