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For media inquiries contact: Marylia Kelley, (925) 443-7148, marylia@trivalleycares.org


Tri-Valley CAREs Files Federal Lawsuit to Compel Release of Information About Nuclear Weapons Activities at Livermore Lab

Group charges Energy Dept. illegally withheld documents on dangerous plans to use plutonium in the National Ignition Facility, ship nuclear bomb cores to California, and more; requests Special Prosecutor be named

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, June 7, 2013

LIVERMORE & OAKLAND, CA – Today, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) filed a Federal lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for numerous failures to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies to respond to public requests for information within 20 days.

According to the complaint filed today in US District Court, Tri-Valley CAREs alleges five separate instances the DOE and NNSA failed to provide responsive, unclassified documents regarding operations at the agencies’ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as required by law. The information that is the subject of the litigation is overdue by time periods between one and two years.

“The DOE and NNSA are egregiously out of compliance with the law,” noted Tri-Valley CAREs’ Staff Attorney, Scott Yundt. “This frustrates the public’s basic right to know. The information is of urgent importance to the community, and involves important and timely issues like Livermore Lab’s plan to use plutonium in the National Ignition Facility and proposed shipments of plutonium bomb cores to Livermore from Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.”

“As a ‘watchdog’ organization, Tri-Valley CAREs relies on open government laws like the FOIA to do its work and inform the community,” stated Yundt. “By dragging its feet for years, and not providing the requested information, the government has not only violated the law but has potentially degraded the value of the information sought, which is often time-sensitive,” Yundt added. “In some cases, important opportunities for public input have elapsed and projects have gone forward while the group’s information requests went unanswered.”

“Many of the documents Tri-Valley CAREs requested contain information about the dangers faced by our community from spills, accidents, releases. Keeping this information hidden does nothing to protect the public,” charged Marylia Kelley, the group’s Executive Director. “Instead, it robs the community of the opportunity to press for changes that would better safeguard worker and public health and the environment.”

Kelley continued, “Moreover, DOE and NNSA are illegally withholding detailed information we requested about worker exposures.”

“The DOE and NNSA have exhibited a ‘pattern and practice’ of not responding to FOIA requests in the manner prescribed by statute,” Staff Attorney Yundt stated. “Routinely, these federal agencies have failed to fulfill Tri-Valley CAREs’ FOIA requests within the allotted timeframe and failed to provide an estimated date of their determination as required by President Obama’s 2008 Open Government Directive.”

The group’s lawsuit asks the judge to issue a court order appointing a Special Counsel to investigate the pattern of abuse wherein DOE and NNSA fail to comply with the law. The Special Counsel would then determine whether disciplinary action is warranted and against whom. “A positive ruling could set a precedent with national implications,” said Yundt.

Tri-Valley CAREs was forced to bring similar FOIA litigation to compel the release of documents under the Freedom of Information act in 1998, 2000, 2006, 2008, and 2010. “We should not have to file lawsuits in order to obtain public information,” said Yundt. “Congress enacted the FOIA specifically so that organizations like Tri-Valley CAREs would have free access to unclassified, non-exempt records that disclose the operation of the government.”

“We are prosecuting this lawsuit in order to hold the DOE and NNSA accountable and to vindicate the public’s right to be informed and to knowledgeably and democratically influence LLNL projects and the nation’s nuclear weapons policies,” concluded Kelley. “The information we seek impacts our lives and our future.”

Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in 1983 in Livermore, CA by neighbors of the Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of two locations where all U.S. nuclear weapons are designed. The LLNL Main Site in Livermore was placed on the federal Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the country in 1987. LLNL’s Site 300, located between Livermore and Tracy, was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1990. Tri-Valley CAREs represents 5,600 members, most of whom live and/or work in the shadow of LLNL.

For a PDF of the press release, click here.

To read the whole Tri-Valley CAREs' Complaint filed against the DOE and NNSA, click here.

CONTACT:

Marylia Kelley, Exec. Dir., 925.443.7148 (office), marylia@trivalleycares.org

Scott Yundt, Staff Attorney, 925.443.7148 (office), scott@trivalleycares.org

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