Reading Room

For immediate release: November 14, 2006

Energy Dept. Violates Freedom Of Information Law, Livermore Lab "Watchdog" Files Federal Lawsuit

Tri-Valley CAREs Sues on 5 Separate Freedom of Information Act Violations; Lawsuit has National Implications as Group Asks Court to Rule on Agency Pattern of Abuse

Download a copy of the complaint here.

for more information, contact:
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (925) 443-7148

LIVERMORE -- Today, Tri-Valley CAREs filed a major lawsuit in the federal district court in San Francisco against the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) for numerous failures to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation's leading open government statute.

The DOE has failed to provide responsive documents as required by law for as long as three years on five separate information requests. The DOE's failure to respond thwarts the community's basic right to know, according to the group's litigation.

"The DOE has been thumbing its nose at the law," charged Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "Moreover, these FOIA requests involve potentially catastrophic releases of plutonium and biological agents from Livermore Lab operations," said Kelley, who lives down the street from the Lab.

The 5 FOIA requests that are the subject of the litigation involve unclassified information on the feasibility of developing earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, the environmental implications of a terrorist attack or catastrophic accident on Livermore Lab's existing plutonium stockpiles, the Lab's "10-Year Site Plan," and the Dept. of Homeland Security's bio-warfare agent research plans at Livermore Lab.

"These documents will provide information about the dangers faced by our community from spills, accidents, releases and potential terrorism," said Kelley. "Keeping this hidden does nothing to protect the public," she continued. "Instead, it renders us unable to press for changes that will truly safeguard worker and community health and the environment."

"The DOE's illegal conduct frustrates Tri-Valley CAREs' efforts to educate the public regarding key activities at the Livermore Lab," said Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, Loulena Miles. She continued, "The DOE has exhibited a 'pattern and practice' of not responding to FOIA requests in the manner prescribed by statute. Routinely, the DOE has failed to fulfill Tri-Valley CAREs' FOIA requests and those of other individuals and organizations within the allotted timeframe."

The suit filed today also asks the judge to issue a court order appointing a Special Counsel to investigate DOE's pattern of failing 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," stated noted New Mexico FOIA attorney, Steve Sugarman, who is assisting Tri-Valley CAREs with the case.

Tri-Valley CAREs was forced to bring similar lawsuits against DOE in 1998 and 2000. Only after filing and pursuing these cases did DOE finally produce documents as required by law.

"Tri-Valley CAREs should not have to file lawsuits in order to obtain public information, concluded Staff Attorney Miles. "The FOIA was enacted specifically so that organizations like ours would have free access to records that disclose the operations of the government. Fundamentally, this lawsuit is intended to vindicate the public's right to be informed and to comment knowledgeably on the country's nuclear and other programs that impact our lives and our future."

Presently, the DOE stands poised to launch "Complex 2030," the agency's blueprint for revitalizing U.S. nuclear weapons design and production capability. The agency's continued refusal to provide needed information having a direct bearing on future activities at Livermore Lab therefore has an ongoing deleterious impact on public discourse. The DOE will be holding meetings in Livermore and Tracy on December 12, 2006 to receive public comment on the scope of future activities at Livermore Lab and other sites in the nuclear weapons complex.

"The government is proposing a major transformation of nuclear programs as well as housing biological warfare agent facilities at the Livermore Lab's main site and site 300. The DOE's refusal to release vital, unclassified information at this time makes it impossible for the public to meaningfully comment on these plans," noted Miles.

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A faxed copy of the complaint filed today can be obtained immediately by calling Tri-Valley CAREs at (925) 443-7148. (Update Nov. 24th, 2006 -- it is also now available on our website.)

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