|Date:||4 Oct 2002 17:38:57 -0000|
|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 LAB'S LASER REVIEWS TAINTED, JUDGE SAYS RULING ON $4 BILLION NIF PROJECT PROVIDES 'AMMUNITION' 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 interest." 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 laboratory. 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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