for immediate release, March 28, 2001
for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, CA (925) 443-7148
Chris Paine, Natural Resources Defense Council, (804) 244-5013
Howard Crystal, Meyer and Glitzenstein, Washington, DC (202) 588-5206
LIVERMORE, CA -- Today in federal court in the District of Columbia, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued an Order granting two environmental groups' Motion for Preliminary Injunction in their long-running legal battle against the multi-billion dollar National Ignition Facility mega-laser, under construction at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
The plaintiff organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC and the Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs, filed a lawsuit in October 2000 charging DOE with multiple violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). (For background, see "FACA Facts," which follows this press release.)
In February 2001, the groups sought a preliminary injunction to bar the DOE from using the NIF August 2000 "rebaseline," which plaintiffs characterized as "an illegally-prepared, biased review to drum up flagging Congressional and public support for its problem-plagued laser fusion project." Additionally, the groups sought to prevent the DOE from continuing to violate FACA by forming a second, unbalanced advisory committee -- which utilized the same membership and continued to meet in secret.
"[T]he Court concludes that plaintiffs have met the standard for issuance of a preliminary injunction," states today's Order. "In light of the serious issues which have been raised concerning the NIF, and the nature of defendants' FACA violations, a preliminary injunction would serve the public interest in ensuring compliance with an important open government law," the Order concludes.
In issuing the Court Order, Judge Sullivan ruled that the plaintiffs "have demonstrated the requisite likelihood of success on their claims that the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) applies" to both the August 2000 NIF "Rebaseline Validation Review," which DOE used last fall to obtain continued funding for the mega-laser, and to the current "NIF Status Review Committee," whose findings DOE was hoping to use on March 31, 2001 to obtain release of the $69 million in construction funding that Congress withheld last year, pending further review of the project.
"This is a huge win," said Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "By preventing DOE from relying on biased, handpicked committees to provide assessments of NIF, the Court has opened the door for the conduct of a truly independent review of the project. It has long been our belief that if Congress were to receive an objective, external review of NIF's costs, technical problems and nuclear proliferation risks, it would cancel the facility," Kelley continued.
"We have achieved an important victory today," agreed NRDC's Senior Researcher, Christopher Paine.
Paine continued: "Today's Order vindicates our contention that DOE has continued to violate FACA in its effort to avoid an open and unbiased review of NIF. We hope that Congress will take note of the Court Order, take a close look at alternatives to the NIF project and reconsider its priority within the overall 'stockpile stewardship' program."
"The court's ruling today makes clear that DOE will no longer be able to attempt to fool Congress and the public with illegally-constituted committees meeting in secret sessions," added plaintiffs' attorney, Howard Crystal of the Washington, DC firm, Meyer and Glitzenstein.
A copy of the Court Order can be faxed upon request. "FACA Facts" follows.
prepared by Chris Paine, NRDC and Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs
Congress enacted the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 1972 to control wasteful expenditures and open to public scrutiny the ways in which government agencies obtain advice from private individuals. Prior to FACA, advisory committees had become convenient nesting places for special interests seeking to influence federal agency actions for their own ends.
FACA applies to agencies when they establish or utilize a group that includes at least one non-federal employee to provide collective advice or recommendations to the agency.
To legally obtain such advice, and agency must, among other requirements:
Once the committee is formed, FACA provides public notice and participation requirements, and specifies that the advisory committee must hold open meetings and make documents that it reviewed or produced available to the public.
Both the Department of Energy's National Ignition Facility "Rebaseline Validation Review" committee and its NIF "Status Review Committee" failed to comply with the law on ALL counts. Today's Court Order granting plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction stops these DOE FACA violations in their tracks.
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