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Citizens Watch Newsletter July 2006

Court Expresses Concern Over Bio-Lab; Decision Pending

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The first and only hearing on the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) decision to operate an advanced bio-warfare research facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab was held in San Francisco on June 13, 2006. The hearing was presided over by a panel of three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court that sits just below the U.S. Supreme Court.

The disputed facility, if allowed to operate, would become the first advanced bio-weapon agent lab located within a DOE nuclear weapons site. The proposed bio-facility would experiment on some of the deadliest pathogens known including prions, live anthrax, botulism, Q fever and plague.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico filed a lawsuit under the National Environmental Policy Act in 2003, and operation of this disputed bio-facility has been delayed up to the present day. Livermore Lab now proposes to begin operations this August. We are asking the Ninth Circuit to compel an Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings instead.

Because this is a major federal project that could substantially impact the environment, we believe U.S. law requires a stringent environmental review. The DOE skirted the law by conducting a flimsy study that included little analysis or data.

The DOE did, however, disclose plans to aerosolize and spray these pathogens in order to conduct what it called "challenges" of up to 100 small animals at a time, including rats, mice and guinea pigs. Moreover, the document revealed that Livermore Lab researchers would also genetically modify numerous "select agents" that are historically associated with bio-weapons and warfare.

At the June 13 hearing, attorneys for both the Tri-Valley CAREs and DOE presented arguments as to whether the Department had sufficiently evaluated the risks of operating the bio-facility. The judges expressed interest in whether any terrorism analysis was done, whether alternate sites had been fully evaluated and why the facility was located in the San Francisco Bay Area. One judge noted, "What I find to be the most troublesome thing is this is being built in a very highly populated area."

Our lead attorney, Stephan Volker, responded that, indeed, there are seven million people in a 50-mile radius of Livermore Lab and the proposed bio-facility. Volker added that the DOE utterly failed to evaluate the impacts of a terrorist attack or act of sabotage. He also illuminated DOE's failure to adequately address other serious threats, such as earthquake risk, filter failure, a range of credible bio-agent release scenarios, disease pathways and impacts on Northern California populations.

Volker also disputed the DOE's contention that this potentially deadly facility was "well placed" because nearby city neighborhoods sit at the Livermore Lab fence line, a half-mile from the bio-facility's on-site location. Volker pointed out, "This ignores the 10,000 workers within that 1.3 square-mile Livermore Lab site." He asserted that both workers and the public would be affected in the event of a release.

Our attorney disputed a DOE assertion that there are no nearby earthquake faults by pointing out that the Las Positas fault zone is immediately adjacent to the Lab and that the nearby Greenville fault had caused damage at the Lab and within the City of Livermore with a relatively mild quake in 1980.

Volker also questioned the validity of the scenario that DOE called the most "catastrophic release" possible. Essentially, DOE was claiming the worst accident that was reasonably foreseeable would result from a lab worker's failure to properly tighten some caps on test tubes before they were placed in a small, spinning centrifuge.

The Justice Department attorney, Todd Aagaard, appearing on the DOE's behalf, defended the agency's environmental study. He stated that the "catastrophic release" scenario was the maximum reasonable release that could be expected from any situation including terrorism, earthquakes or any foreseeable accident that could befall the bio-facility. He argued that, therefore, DOE had done its job under the law and that no additional analysis was needed.

Aagaard further stated that an airborne release of deadly pathogens due to a terrorist attack by plane or truck bomb or other method was not a concern to the government because the bio-agents would be rendered mostly innocuous from the heat and fire associated with those events.

Our hearing came just a week after the same Ninth Circuit Court issued a ruling on a similar case brought by Mothers for Peace challenging the siting of a nuclear fuel storage facility at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant without first studying the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack.

In the Mothers case, the court ruled that the possibility of terrorist attack is not so "remote and highly speculative" as to be beyond the need for environmental review and that the government must evaluate these impacts and consider public input on them.

Volker discussed this important legal decision during the June 13 hearing and pointed out its applicability to our case.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch are hoping for a ruling from the Ninth Circuit soon, before Livermore Lab says its bio-facility will become operational. If necessary, we will again seek a "stay" to prevent the facility from opening before the court issues its opinion.

Further, we are, of course, hoping that the Ninth Circuit will rule in our favor - either declaring the low-level review null and void (which would send DOE back to square one), or compelling DOE outright to prepare a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement and hold public hearings.

Outside of the courtroom, as we disclosed in the April/May newsletter, it appears that this particular bio-facility is only the tip of the iceberg of the aggressive biodefense work Livermore Lab hopes to attract.

The Lab recently submitted a secret proposal to the Dept. of Homeland Security - nominating its Site 300 high explosives testing range in Tracy as the place for a 30-acre bio-warfare agent research facility. If selected, Site 300 would conduct agricultural, animal and biological defense research on such things as mad cow disease, Avian flu and Ebola virus. (See page 2 of the enclosed insert for info on a bio-workshop we will offer in Sept.)


No Nukes! No Wars! August 6 and 9

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On August 6 and 9, 2006 people from around the globe will join together to stop nuclear weapons and war and to support indigenous rights.

In California, on August 6 a diverse coalition of peace and environmental advocates and supporters will gather at the Livermore nuclear weapons Lab. The Lab is a leading hub in the creation of new nuclear weapons and other high-tech methods of mass destruction.

Presently, Livermore Lab is conducting design work on a so-called "replacement" submarine-launched warhead. This is only the first task of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, through which Livermore and Los Alamos Labs intend to re-design and rebuild every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

Then, August 9, we will gather at the Bechtel Corp. Headquarters in San Francisco. Bechtel is a leading war profiteer in Iraq, a worldwide violator of indigenous rights and a major contractor in the Dept. of Energy weapons complex.

August 6 & 9 mark the 61st anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Moreover, August 9 is the UN International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. As a caring people with a passion for peace and justice, we will commemorate these occasions with ceremony, music, speakers and creative, nonviolent rallies in Livermore and San Francisco.

We will stand with the Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bomb, and call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. With indigenous leaders, we will insist that Livermore Lab stop the development of new nukes. We will support the sovereignty of First Nations and Western Shoshone claims to the land now occupied by the Nevada Test Site and the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. We will witness to truth and beauty - and hold DOE and Bechtel accountable for the violent and destructive nature of their actions.

In this spirit, we invite you to attend the No Nukes! No Wars!" ritual and action on Sunday, August 6 at 8 AM, at Livermore Lab, corner of Vasco Rd. and Patterson Pass Rd. We are also planning a peace camp at Del Valle Regional Park on August 5 (contact our outreach intern at butterfly@lacy.com for camping info).

On Wednesday, August 9 at 10 AM, we invite you to gather at Bechtel Headquarters in San Francisco, 50 Beale St., near Embarcadero BART. Speakers and ceremonialists include Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney.

(Download our postcared flyer here.)


Annual Strategic Planning Retreat

by Marylia Kelley and Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs members meet each summer to plan the group's strategy for the coming year, sketching out the goals and objectives we will collectively seek to accomplish. At the annual planning retreat, we also prioritize our programs for the next 12 months. And, we revisit our goals and program priorities from last year's retreat and contemplate our progress and successes.

Tri-Valley CAREs' strength comes from the active participation of all sectors of our organization -- our dedicated Board of Directors, amazing staff, wonderful "core" members, enthusiastic new faces and fabulous volunteers. If you see yourself reflected in any of these five categories (or if you would like to be), we urge you to join us for this day-long retreat. Take part in molding the strategic outlines of our work together for peace, justice and a healthy environment. Truly, together, we are making a positive difference in the world.

DATE: Saturday, August 19, 2006

TIME: 9:45 AM to 4 PM (Bring something to share for a fun potluck lunch. Drinks and place settings provided.)

PLACE: United Christian Church 1886 College Ave., Livermore (Note: This is a new location this year.)

DIRECTIONS: From the West: Take I-580 East, take the Portola Avenue exit, turn right on P Street, turn left on College Avenue. (Lots of street parking is available.)

From the East: Take I-205 West toward San Francisco, merge onto I-580 West, take exit #54/First Street/Springtown Blvd. onto First Street toward the downtown, turn left on South L Street, turn right on College Avenue.

THE SETTING: Airy and tranquil, well equipped and easy to reach, United Christian Church is a relaxing place in which to contemplate a "green vision" for Livermore Lab and a nuclear weapons free world for future generations. Come nurture your activist spirit and help plan the best possible path for Tri-Valley CAREs in the coming year.

WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE? If you are a Tri-Valley CAREs board member, organization member, staff or volunteer, then the answer is "YOU." If you want to give peace a strategy -- and work with us to carry it out in the coming months, we welcome your participation.

WHO WILL FACILITATE? Back by popular demand, our facilitator for the retreat will be Dan Geiger.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO? First, RSVP to Tri-Valley CAREs. We will send you a packet with guidance on how to do strategic planning, the agenda for the retreat, and other relevant information.

RSVP IS REQUIRED. SPACE IS LIMITED, SO CALL TODAY

(925) 443-7148, ask for Ann Seitz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Office Manager

Help set the goals and strategies for a respected, effective, dynamic "watchdog" organization -- your very own Tri-Valley CAREs.


THANK YOU!

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' July 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs is in the middle of its mid-year 2006 funding drive. I am pleased to announce that we have received more than 200 gifts so far. On behalf of the board, staff and entire organization, I want to say a heartfelt "thanks" to all of you who have donated by sending a check or by using your credit card and donating through our website.

You may have heard that one of the activities for which we are raising funds is to inform the community about DOE's plan to double the plutonium at Livermore Lab. You know the insanity of the Lab's assertion that it may truck in more plutonium even as Congress investigates whether the plutonium already here is vulnerable to a terrorist attack or other catastrophic event.

Thanks to your generosity, we have produced a 4-page special report, "Livermore at the Crossroads," which will appear this month in more than 25,000 Livermore residents' morning newspapers. Please find your special preview copy enclosed.

Also inside, read all about the hearing in our bio-warfare research lawsuit, our July workshop, the August planning retreat -- and much more.

For Peace, Marylia Kelley

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