Reading Room

Tuesday, December 9, 2008  
Government gets sued

By: Tracy Press
Published In: Tracy Press

A local nuclear energy watchdog has filed suit against the government after being frustrated by recent public records requests.

A government watchdog has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration that alleges the government has long delayed responses to public records requests.

Tri-Valley CAREs charges the energy department and the nuclear security agency have failed to respond to six Freedom of Information Act requests made by the group in recent months seeking nuclear and biological research records.

Nuclear Security spokesman John Belluardo said the Department of Energy has a service center in New Mexico that now handles public records requests for the agencies he works for.

The idea, he said, is to "consolidate them there for quick processing."

But Tri-Valley CAREs says there's nothing quick about the responses they've received. The government has 20 days to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request, but it's waited in one case more than a year for data about a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories biosafety committee, which is supposed to review some of the lab's DNA research and biological material.

"As a 'watchdog' organization, Tri-Valley CAREs relies on open government laws like FOIA to do its work on behalf of the community," said Tri-Valley attorney Robert Schwartz. "Congress provided that right, but DOE and NNSA have taken it away through abuse and neglect."

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