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February/March 2009 Citizen's Watch Newsletter

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Cleanup and the Stimulus

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2009 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs has also been busy monitoring the final stimulus bill's funding for cleanup activities at Dept. of Energy (DOE ) sites across the country. Unlike the proposed stimulus money for nuclear weapons and power, which we helped defeat (hooray), we supported the DOE cleanup funding in principle. It's the details that concern us.

The final stimulus bill, signed into law by President Obama, contains $5.127 billion for DOE "defense environmental cleanup," $483 million for "non-defense environmental cleanup," and $390 million for uranium enrichment decontamination and decommissioning activities for an overall total of $6 billion.

The "defense environmental cleanup" money, we were originally told, included all DOE sites where the cleanup was managed by the DOE Environmental Management (EM) program.

At Livermore Lab, the main site Superfund cleanup is managed by the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). However, the cleanup activities at the Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range are managed by the EM program. Site 300 was placed on EPA's Superfund list of most contaminated locations in the country in 1990.

The funds needed to complete the cleanup of toxic and radioactive contamination at Site 300 are estimated at about $1 billion dollars more than has been allocated to date. It seemed to us at Tri-Valley CAREs that the Site 300 environmental cleanup was a good candidate for receiving some of the stimulus funds.

So, we made inquiries. Imagine our surprise when we were told by the DOE Livermore Site Office that it did not intend to apply for any of the stimulus funds. None. Not one dime.

After numerous letters back and forth, we have recently been informed that the DOE Livermore Site Office is re-considering its original position and is "in conversations" with DOE Headquarters over the possibility that some of the stimulus funds will be allocated to the Site 300 cleanup.

In this regard, we note that DOE has broad authority over the disbursement of the $5.127 billion pot of money for "defense environmental cleanup." We are asking that $40 million be used to "stimulate" contaminant monitoring and cleanup at Site 300. This represents a good start, at least.

There is also one piece of newly "breaking" news about the cleanup stimulus. After being told repeatedly that only DOE EM sites are eligible to receive some of the funds, it now appears that the "bright line" might not be as rigid as previously stated. The implication here is that the Livermore Lab main site could become eligible for some additional cleanup funds under the stimulus bill.

Which brings us back to our concern over the details. Tri-Valley CAREs fully supports the cleanup of toxic and radioactive contamination at the Livermore Lab main site and Site 300. One of our founding principles in 1983 was that the polluter, in this case DOE, must clean up its mess. We hold to that principle.

However, we also hold to another principle -- not wasting taxpayer money. Therefore, we at Tri-Valley CAREs vow to remain watchful in order to ensure that real cleanup takes place with any federal dollars received, including via the stimulus.

Moreover, should any of this funding ultimately come to Site 300 or the Lab's main site cleanup programs, we will monitor and make sure that jobs are created in the process. After all, that was the original idea. And, we will keep you informed.

Nuclear "Pork" Cut From Final Stimulus Bill

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2009 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Are you ready to celebrate two important victories?

First, the Senate version of the stimulus bill, formally titled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, contained $1 billion for the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to "stimulate" nuclear weapons.

The victory? The NNSA funding was deleted from the final bill, mostly due to outcry from activists and organizations like Tri-Valley CAREs and colleague groups across the country.

Special recognition for achieving this victory goes to the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, of which Tri-Valley CAREs is a member, for spearheading sign-on letters to Congress and other actions to cut the NNSA funds out of the final bill.

Want to hear about a second victory? The Senate version of the stimulus bill also included $50 billion in additional taxpayer loan guarantees that could have been used for construction of new nuclear power plants, as well as other types of facilities.

These loan guarantees were viewed by activists as a stalking horse for the nuclear power industry. Again, it was a concerted effort by activist groups across the country that led to the defeat of this provision.

As with the $1 billion stimulus for nuclear weapons, the $50 billion in loan guarantees to benefit nuclear power were stripped from the final bill before its passage. Do activists matter? You bet!

Partial Win, Partial Loss in Bio-suit

by Robert Schwartz from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2009 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On February 9, Tri-Valley CAREs received a ruling on its motion for preliminary injunction in the litigation over Livermore Lab's Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility. The motion was aimed at shutting down the facility until the case is resolved.

Although Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong denied the motion, she ruled that Tri-Valley CAREs is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim that the Department of Energy (DOE) was required to supplement its environmental assessment (EA) for the facility with information about an anthrax release that occurred in late 2005.

"We are closely reviewing the judge's ruling and considering our options, which include an appeal," commented Robert Schwartz, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney. "While we're happy that the judge agreed with us about the anthrax release, we disagree with the rest of her ruling and are confident that we will ultimately prevail on the other issues.

"In her ruling, Armstrong, a federal judge based in Oakland, noted that DOE had neglected to disclose information to the public about an anthrax release at Livermore Lab, which resulted in the exposure of five individuals.

After the incident, Livermore Lab's license to conduct this research was revoked, and a subsequent investigation identified a number of serious issues with the laboratory's operations. The judge found that DOE had kept this information from the public during the comment period for the EA, thereby preventing the public from commenting on an issue of direct relevance to the potential environmental impacts of the facility.

"It is notable," explained Executive Director Marylia Kelley, "that the anthrax accident that exposed five workers occurred when Livermore Lab operated only BSL-1 and BSL-2 labs. With a BSL-3, there will be larger quantities of bio-warfare agents on site that could be released in an accident. Moreover, researchers will be conducting more hazardous operations in the BSL-3, such as genetic modification and aerosol experiments on up to 100 small animals at a time."

Tri-Valley CAREs filed a lawsuit against DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in March of last year. At issue in the case is DOE's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act in operating a biological weapons research facility at Livermore Lab.

In an earlier lawsuit over the BSL-3 facility, Tri-Valley CAREs prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered DOE to consider whether the threat of terrorist activity necessitates the preparation of a full-fledged environmental impact statement (EIS) for the facility, instead of a lower-level EA.

In response to the Ninth Circuit's ruling, DOE revised the original EA to consider the potential impacts of terrorist activity. That document was made available for public comment in March 2007. In January 2008, DOE issued a final EA and finding of no significant impact for the BSL-3 facility and immediately commenced operations there. Tri-Valley CAREs is currently challenging the adequacy of the terrorism analysis that DOE was forced to conduct, as well as DOE's decision not to prepare an EIS and its compliance with federal regulations.

Report Back on Two Recent Events

by Janine Carmona from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2009 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs was recently part of two important events, Peace and Healing Through Action, a commemoration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Livermore as well as a quarterly meeting of the Regents of the University of California (UC).

At Peace and Healing Through Action, an event organized by the Tri-Valley Peace Network, several dozen participants gathered at the United Christian Church to hear speakers from local organizations who are working as part of King's ongoing legacy in their communities. Speakers were from the Tri-Valley Haven, Triangle Speakers and Tri-Valley CAREs. In addition, local writers read from their work.

Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Director, Janine Carmona, spoke about the need for community action and how King's work was about not always doing what is easiest. After the King Day presentations, participants made signs and began marching toward downtown Livermore, soon meeting up with a second group along the way. There was joyful singing of peace songs and sign holding. The crowd at the downtown Livermore fountains numbered about 75.

At an event of a very different nature - the meeting of the UC Regents, who manage Livermore Lab as part of a consortium with Bechtel Corporation - Tri-Valley CAREs and students from the Coalition to Demilitarize the UC worked to put problems with the nuclear weapons labs on the agenda. Tri-Valley CAREs' staff and UC students spoke during the public comment period to address ethical and other issues stemming from UC management of nuclear weapons labs.

Tri-Valley CAREs also called on the Regents to advocate for the cleanup of Livermore Lab. As managers, we said, the Regents are accountable to the community for the environmental effects of the failure to operate cleanup facilities that are the subject of an EPA fine.

After the comment period, during the Regents' vote on their compensation package, the UC students, with support from Tri-Valley CAREs, orchestrated a creative civil disruption of the vote, calling on the Regents to make changes in favor of human security and against militarism.

EPA to DOE: Break the Law, Pay the Fine

by Marylia Kelley from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2009 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In July 2008, Livermore Lab received full funding for its main site Superfund cleanup. Tri-Valley CAREs had advocated for these funds.

In December 2008, Tri-Valley CAREs met with Dept. of Energy (DOE), Livermore Lab and federal and state regulatory officials and learned that the main site cleanup was not being done.

Facilities required to remedy the heavily polluted soil and groundwater had never been re-started, even though the funding had been restored.

A huge, toxic, off-site groundwater plume emanating from the Lab was not under control. Pollution was moving through the neighborhoods, including under the homes of some of our members.

In January 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency took action, fining the DOE $105,000 for violations of the Superfund cleanup law. The agency also notified DOE that further fines of $10,000 a week might also be levied if non-compliance continued.

"DOE's failure to restart the treatment systems is unacceptable, creates a risk to public health and the environment and violates the FFA [Federal Facilities Agreement]," EPA wrote in its formal notice stipulating penalties.

Tri-Valley CAREs fully supports the EPA action.

"We are appalled that DOE did not use the money it received from Congress promptly and for the purpose it was intended," said Marylia Kelley, the group's Executive Director.

"We will exercise continuing vigilance and keep the pressure on until the Superfund cleanup is put back on track."

Decades of nuclear weapons activities at Livermore Lab have caused a toxic soup in the soil and groundwater, with contaminants such as TCE, Freon, hexavalent chromium and tritium (the radioactive hydrogen of the H-bomb).

The Livermore Lab main site was placed on the EPA's Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the nation in 1987. The site is so polluted that the cleanup will take until 2077 to complete. (And, that's with all of the treatment facilities operating properly.)

Alerts 4 U

from Tri-Valley CAREs' February/March 2008 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, March 19

Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 South Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Tri-Valley CAREs meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month. New members and old-timers are welcome. If you've thought about getting more actively involved, do join us. Agenda items include what's going on at Livermore Lab as well as global issues.

Friday, April 10

Good Friday action, Livermore Lab
6:45 AM, Vasco Rd & Patterson Pass
(510) 655-1162, (925) 443-7148

Members of the religious peace community, and other peace advocates, will gather at the Livermore Lab fenceline to support the journey from violence and militarism to peace, justice, hope and equality. The keynote speaker will be Reverend Nobuaki Hanaoka, who some of our members will recall meeting at last year's Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration. Participants will march to the Lab gates after the service. A community gathering with light breakfast foods will be hosted by Marylia Kelley at 10 AM.

Thursday, April 16

Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 South Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Our April meeting will feature a send-off for your Tri-Valley CAREs team, which will be traveling to Washington, DC the following week to participate in "DC Days 2009." Over the years, the annual "DC Days" events have proven to be among Tri-Valley CAREs' most effective activities. At our meeting, we will discuss policy recommendations and strategies for creating positive change -- in Washington, DC and at the community level. (See Marylia's enclosed letter about this year's activities and how you can support them. Also, cool photos!)

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