By John LaForge
Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2018-19
The Trump justice department is threatening to sue the state of Washington to block enforcement of a new state law that helps employees who were sickened by their work at the Hanford Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. The Justice Dept. told Gov. Jay Inslee that the new law which allows compensation for illnesses, violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution because it “purports to directly regulate” the federal government. The letter to Inslee reportedly warns of legal action if a settlement isn’t reached by Nov. 30, 2018.
For decades, Hanford made plutonium for nuclear weapons and thousands of workers are now engaged in the perilous work of cleaning up the resulting radioactive waste, near Richland, Washington. Under the new workers’ comp statute, some cancers and other illnesses are assumed to be from chemical or radiological exposures at Hanford. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson told the press he would look forward to defending the law if the federal government filed a suit. “Hanford workers deserve to be compensated for the health issues caused by their dangerous work,” Ferguson said. Hanford Challenge, a nuclear watchdog group, and the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local Union 598, both backed passage of the law.