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Citizens Watch Newsletter June 2006


Livermore Biowarfare Research Case to Get its Day in Court

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

A federal hearing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled in San Francisco for June 13. Stephan Volker, lead attorney for Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch New Mexico, will argue that the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) violated our country's most fundamental environmental law by attempting to run a deadly biowarfare agent research facility inside the Livermore Lab main site without first performing a stringent safety review or holding public hearings.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch contend that DOE violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to produce a legally required environmental Impact Statement that studied the significant health and environmental risks of operating the proposed facility.

This hearing is the first and only opportunity for the federal court - and the public - to hear the arguments for this appeal. During the hearing, our attorney and the Justice Dept. attorneys, who are working on DOE's behalf, will present their arguments and will answer questions from a panel of judges. The judges will ultimately make their decision on the basis of the hearing, plus written evidence and expert witness testimony already submitted by both sides.

At this controversial bio-facility, Livermore Lab researchers would genetically modify and aerosolize (spray) lethal pathogens, such as live anthrax, plague and botulism. The Livermore Lab sits astride major earthquake faults. Seven million Bay Area residents live within a 50 mile-radius.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch submitted evidence to the court derived from Defense Dept. models to show the type of analysis that the DOE should have done, but didn't. The modeling demonstrated that hundreds or, depending on the wind currents, thousands could die if an accident sends anthrax or other deadly pathogens skyward. According to experts, two grams of live anthrax represents up to 25 million times the inhaled lethal dose. Documents obtained by Tri-Valley CAREs disclose that DOE has given the proposed Livermore bio-facility permission to use up to 100 liters of biowarfare agents at a time.

"DOE granted itself the go-ahead to operate this facility without conducting thorough analyses of the risks to workers and neighbors," charged Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director who lives down the street from Livermore Lab. "A comprehensive environmental review, public hearings and serious consideration of safer alternatives are all legally required."

"The low-level, cursory study that DOE conducted dismissed serious threats such as filter failures, terrorist attacks, sabotage, transportation accidents, earthquakes and fire," added Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Loulena Miles.

Originally, DOE approved advanced biowarfare agent research at both its Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs. Our lawsuit challenged both sites. Then, in 2005, DOE announced in the Federal Register that it would conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Los Alamos bio-facility (as we Plaintiffs had asked). Potential earthquakes, and the need for "additional seismic analysis," were listed as a reason for the more stringent review in New Mexico.

"We believe that Livermore and Bay Area residents deserve no less than their New Mexico counterparts," insisted Kelley. "In fact, the potential for a catastrophic earthquake is much greater in Livermore."

The Livermore Lab bio-facility, if it becomes operational, would mark the first time that the U.S. mixes advanced biowarfare and nuclear weapons research at the same site, raising the specter of grave local harm and potentially severe damage to the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty banning bio-weapons.

Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch are appealing a September 2004 District Court ruling, which held that DOE was not required to conduct an EIS. The groups originally filed the litigation in August 2003, and have, thus far, prevented DOE from mixing "bugs and bombs" at either weapons lab.

The public and media are invited to attend the hearing. The 9th Circuit courthouse is located at 95 Seventh Street (at Mission) in downtown San Francisco. Our case is scheduled for 9 AM on Tuesday, June 13. Call (925) 443-7148 for details.


Newsletter Insert -- Letter to EPA on Community Acceptance Criteria for Site 300 (Tracy) Cleanup

Please download, sign and send.


Newsletter Insert -- July 19th Community Event: Radiation and your Health

Please join us!


Stopping Plutonium

By Mary Perner
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

With the approach of warmer weather, Tri-Valley CAREs' petition campaign to stop the Dept. of Energy from trucking more plutonium to Livermore Lab kicks into high gear. You can help -- from your home or by "hitting the streets" with us.

We are pleased to announce that the petition campaign has collected 5,000 signatures so far! This is the half-way mark en route to our goal of 10,000.

There are 3 ways you can participate.

  1. download a copy of our petition here on our website. Get your friends to sign, and mail it to us.
  2. go to www.actforchange.com/livermore and sign an e-petition. And, saving the best for last,
  3. join the wonderful group of volunteers, board and staff who are taking the petition into the community.

We are there - supermarkets, farmers' markets and neighborhoods - adding crucial local signatures and building our numbers. At the Livermore farmers' market one recent Thursday, Mary Perner, Tri-Valley CAREs' Community Organizer, reported averaging a signature every two minutes, despite several long talks with people seeking information.

Door-to-door efforts have focused on residential neighborhoods and apartment complexes near Livermore Lab, where pollution has seeped into the community's air, soil and groundwater. Many people in the apartments there are low-income and can ill-afford to move. Most of the residents with whom we have spoken express concern, and are grateful to receive a petition to sign.

Supermarket shoppers are often busy people rushing to or from work, arms filled with wiggly children, shopping bags and the ever-present cell phone. Nonetheless, many pause to listen -- and then sign a petition or take one home.

You can help us double and triple our effectiveness. With many hands and hearts pitching in, ten thousand signatures can be a piece of cake. To get involved, join a petition training (details at left), or call Mary at (925) 443-7148.


Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

By Marylia Kelley and Peter Strauss
from Tri-Valley CAREs' June 2006 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

  • Sign and Send. [Above], you will find an important new letter we are asking you to sign and send to the U.S. EPA. The letter supports our efforts to obtain a full and adequate cleanup of the massive radioactive and toxic contamination at the Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range, located between Livermore and Tracy. Site 300 is on the EPA's Superfund list of most contaminates sites in the country. It is polluted with radioactive materials like tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and uranium, toxic contaminants like perchlorate and volatile organic compounds and high explosives like RDX. The Lab has recently prepared a draft evaluation of how well it thinks cleanup is proceeding at Site 300. As you may recall, there is not yet a final site-wide Superfund Record of Decision at Site 300, meaning that cleanup standards have not been decided upon. Thus, now is the time to let EPA know the standards you want implemented at Site 300. To that end, Tri-Valley CAREs has prepared a list of Community Acceptance Criteria, which you will find inside. "Community Acceptance" is one of nine criteria that will be applied by EPA in determining whether or not to sign off on the Lab's cleanup plan. Protect our environment. Sign and send the letter today.

  • New Nukes Get Nod. The Dept. of Energy's Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program got a $25 million boost for 2007 from appropriators in the House of Representatives, who upped the dangerous new program to re-design and rebuild every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal from the $27.7 million DOE had requested for the coming year to $52.7 million. The House took the extra $25 million for RRW from the DOE's Life Extension Program -- and canceled the LEP's upgrade of the W80 nuclear warhead that sits atop cruise missiles. As we point out in "Still At It," our analysis of DOE's budget request, Congress should cancel both the RRW and the LEP. Our report also points out that the DOE budget request contains nearly 100 references to RRW-related projects that likely add up to $300 million. Thus, the $52.7 million largesse from the House represents only the tip of the RRW iceberg. Moreover, estimates of the RRW program's ultimate costs run into the hundreds of billions of dollars (yes, billions with a "b"). The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet in the coming weeks to decide its version of DOE's 2007 budget. CA Senator Dianne Feinstein sits on that committee. The switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Give her a call.

  • Weapons Test Postponed. Amid mounting public uproar and a lawsuit, the DOE has indefinitely postponed the 700 ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosion at the Nevada Test Site that it dubbed, "Divine Strake." While not nuclear in composition, the test was planned in order to gather data on the ability of a low yield nuclear bomb to penetrate deeply buried targets (such as might be found in Iran), according to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The government had hoped to dig a huge pit on a hillside, fill it with explosives and detonate the mix to see how the blast would effect a tunnel situated below the pit. Critics charged that the test would run counter to U.S. obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and could kick up radioactive dirt from past nuclear blasts at the site.

  • Protest Happens. Over the Memorial Day weekend, as we are preparing this newsletter, about 200 protesters are gathering at the Nevada Test Site. The aim? Stop the "Divine Strake" and uphold the rights of the Western Shoshone Nation to its traditional lands,including the test site. Carrie Dann, a Western Shoshone elder, reportedly asked why the U.S. would use the word "divine" to describe a large, destructive blast. "From my understanding, 'divine' means holy," she said, "Is it a holy destruction?" A group of about 30, including Dann, peaceably crossed the line at the gate and were arrested by the U.S. government. All carried entry permits issued by the Western Shoshone.


Citizen Alerts

from June 2006 Tri-Valley CAREs' newsletter "Citizen's Watch"

Please consult our online calendar for all of our upcoming events!

For Peace, Marylia Kelley

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