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Inslee Announces Court Action In Hanford Cleanup Fight

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
A sign warns of radioactivity near a wind direction flag indicator at the "C" tank farm during a media tour of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Wednesday, July 9, 2014 near Richland, Washington.

The state of Washington is going back to federal court over cleanup at Hanford, the nation’s largest nuclear waste site. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the latest court action Friday in an exclusive public radio interview.

The decision to return to court follows months of negotiations that failed to produce a new Hanford cleanup agreement. Inslee says the time has come once again to get the courts involved.

“There have been multiple failures — more than multiple failures of the federal government meeting its legal obligations and its timeline already,” Inslee said. “So we have been involved in a multi-month process to try to reach an agreement with the federal government to actually fulfill its obligations, those have not been successful.”

As a result, Inslee says the state will ask a federal court to force the Department of Energy to fulfill its cleanup obligations.

The last time the state of Washington went to court over Hanford was in 2008. That resulted in a 2010 settlement and new clean-up timelines and milestones. Since then, milestones have been missed, construction on a multi-billion dollar Waste Treatment Plant has stalled and more buried waste tanks have been found to be leaking.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued a statement late Friday that read, in part: “We are disappointed that the parties could not agree on a reasonable, achievable path forward.”

The statement went on to say that the department will continue to work “expeditiously” to treat Hanford tank waste.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.