Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to take ‘aggressive’ stance with DOE

KENNEWICK — The Department of Energy must meet its legal obligations for environmental cleanup at Hanford, despite federal budget issues, said Bob Ferguson, Washington’s new attorney general, on Tuesday.

He’ll make his first visit to the Hanford nuclear reservation Wednesday.

Six underground Hanford tanks have been discovered to be leaking radioactive waste into the ground since the democrat took office in January, heightening concern, he told the Herald editorial board.

He’ll be taking a legal position that is aggressive, but legally thoughtful, he said.

His office is researching the full range of legal options available to make sure that DOE follows through on its legal obligations, he said. Deadlines for cleanup of tank waste are included in both the Tri-Party Agreement and a court-enforced consent decree.

The state expects DOE to meet deadlines it agreed to, and enforcing those legal commitments is the way to hold the federal government accountable, he said.

Monday, DOE told 237 employees they were being laid off and about 2,500 additional workers must take furloughs, or time off, to help cut the Hanford budget by $171 million by Sept. 30 because of forced federal budget cuts called sequestration.

The cuts might curtail DOE’s ability to continue progress to close Hanford’s leak-prone underground tanks, said David Huizenga, DOE senior adviser for environmental management, in a written statement Tuesday to the House Appropriations Subcomittee on Energy and Water Development.

DOE has released no further details on how sequestration will affect emptying tanks.

Ferguson also spoke to the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, addressing issues including consumer protection to prevent fraudulent legal advice on immigration.

He also plans to focus on consumer protection for veterans, including helping prevent unfair practices by landlords or others while they are serving abroad, he said.