2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: 4 Oct 2002 17:38:57 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Court: DOE Stacked NIF Reviews
Greetings, colleagues. Here is some GREAT NEWS on the National Ignition
Facility lawsuit brought under the Federal Advisory Committee Act by
Natural Resources Defense Council and Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against
a Radioactive Environment). A good summary article that appeared in the
Tri-Valley Herald is pasted below. Please go forth and USE THIS INFORMATION
in whatever venues you have available to you. If you want a PDF of the
decision, go to www.dcd.uscourts.gov. Then, go to "most recent opinions"
and you will find it listed as NRDC v. Richardson.
Peace, Marylia Kelley

              Tri-Valley Herald -- October 2, 2002
                         by Ian Hoffman

    Despite demands in Congress for independent reviews of the $4
billion National Ignition Facility, the U.S. Department of Energy
convened closed-door panels of potentially biased reviewers in violation
of federal open-government laws, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
    U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the Energy Department
to print a disclaimer on its latest NIF reviews, to include an admission
that it did not "ensure the committee is open to the public, balanced in
terms of the points of view represented, and free of conflicts of
    The ruling is likely to deepen concern in Congress that the
stadium-sized, 192-beam laser at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
will fall short of its promise of igniting hydrogen fusion in a
    Sullivan suggested his ruling will lend "ammunition" to NIF critics
and plaintiffs in the lawsuit at the Washington, D.C.-based Natural
Resources Defense Council and the Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens
Against a Radioactive Environment, both environmental and arms-control
advocacy groups.
   "All of these committees have suffered from a lack of independence, a
lack of balance and an intense pressure to come up with the 'correct'
findings, namely that the project should go forward," said Christopher
Paine, a senior nuclear-weapons policy analyst at the NRDC. "It
certainly will add to Congress' skepticism about NIF."
    In 1999, Livermore lab and DOE officials admitted construction of
the giant laser-fusion project was at least $1 billion over its original
$1.2 billion budget and well beyond schedule. In lieu of canceling the
NIF's funding, Congress called for a series of reviews to be certain
Livermore lab's revised NIF budget and schedule were credible. Ever
since, Sullivan found, energy officials repeatedly relied on the
disputed panels and their reports to reassure Congress of "high
confidence that the project can be successfully completed" and that NIF
should proceed.
     Energy department officials could not be reached for comment on the
ruling, but argued to Sullivan that its panels were not subject to the
Federal Advisory Committee Act or FACA. The law requires government
agencies that form panels of outside advisers to publish notices of
panel meetings, to ensure a balance of views among panelists, to hold
open meetings and to release documents considered in their reviews.
   The Department of Energy filled its latest panels, to varying
degrees, with its own employees, employees for its labs and employees of
private contractors who stood to gain financially by continuing the
project, the judge found. It did not publish a charter or notice of the
meetings or open them to the public, and it declined to release their
internal documents.
   Sullivan rejected the agency's claims that the panels were exempt
from the law, including a contention that the federal contractors were
in effect federal employees. In cases elsewhere, the Energy Department
has opposed public-information requests on the grounds that its
contractors are not agents of the federal government and so not subject
to the Freedom of Information Act.
    Paine said the ruling will make it more difficult for the Energy
Department to "stack the deck" on reviews of major science projects.

Marylia Kelley
Executive Director,
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA 94551
Phone: 1-925-443-7148
Fax: 1-925-443-0177
Web site: http://www.trivalleycares.org is our new web site address. Please
visit us there.

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