Yesterday the US District Court completely threw out the Hanford nuclear waste cleanup initiative – Initiative 297 in its entirety. Voters passed Initiative 297 in November 2004 by the largest margin ever of Washington voters, according to the Seattle PI. I-297 passed by a vote of 1,812,581 votes to 810,795 votes, or 69.09% yes to 30.91% no .
Initiative 297 was passed by Washington State voters to prohibit the Federal Government from shipping more nuclear waste to Hanford until it cleaned up the present contamination there according to existing Federal and state environmental cleanup standards.
What is disturbing about this case of judicial activism if I ever saw one is that US District Judge Alan McDonald in Yakima threw out the whole initiative. As noted in the Settle PI, “Last July, Washington’s Supreme Court ruled that parts of the initiative, sponsored by Hanford watchdog group Heart of America Northwest, could stand even if a federal judge finds other parts are unconstitutional. McDonald, however, struck it down in its entirety.”
The result is that the Federal Court is saying that states have no rights in determining the future health and safety of their citizens. It is saying that states can not put any demands on the Federal Government, even if the Federal Government’s actions put them at severe risk.
As a reminder of what citizens voted for , here is the ballot summary of I-297:
“This measure would establish additional requirements for regulating “mixed waste”(radioactive and nonradioactive hazardous substances) sites, such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The measure would set standards for cleanup and granting permits, would prohibit waste disposal in unlined soil trenches, and require cleanup of tank leaks. Permits would not allow adding more wastes to facilities until existing contamination was cleaned up. Additional public participation would be provided and enforcement through citizen lawsuits would be authorized.”
This is pretty radical, right – the state saying that nuclear waste disposal can not be permitted in unlined soil trenches and that leaks of radioactive and toxic material must be cleaned up. And how about saying before you can bring more wastes into the state you must cleanup existing waste, pretty radical.
But Judge McDonald threw everything out – even though Hanford is listed as the US’s most contaminated nuclear waste site and a radioactive plume of waste is heading towards the Columbia River!
By the way Judge Alan McDonald was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the US District Court.
Secretary of State’s website – Initiative 297 text
Eric Pryne in Seattle Times “Federal Judge strikes down Hanford nuclear waste initiative.”
Shannon Dininny in Seattle PI Judge strikes down voters’ ban on Hanford waste shipments.