YAKIMA – The federal government has asked a judge to overturn a Washington state initiative governing out-of-state waste shipments to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
The motion for summary judgment, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court here, asks a judge to overturn Initiative 297 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
Washington voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative last fall. Among other things, it bars the U.S. Department of Energy from sending any more waste to south-central Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation until all existing waste at the site is cleaned up.
The state must respond to the motion by Feb. 9.
“We will continue to vigorously defend the initiative,” said David Mears, senior assistant attorney general for Washington state.
Created as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, Hanford remains the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation. Cleanup costs are expected to total $50 billion to $60 billion.
Washington state and the Energy Department have been fighting about out-of-state waste shipments to Hanford on several fronts. Those shipments already had been largely halted as a result of another lawsuit, but the initiative also places other restrictions on cleanup at the 586-square-mile reservation.
Last month, a federal judge imposed a temporary injunction preventing the initiative from becoming law after the federal government argued that otherwise it would be forced to halt some cleanup at the site. Both sides later agreed to allow the injunction to continue into 2005.
In the court papers filed Wednesday, the federal government argued the initiative, now known as the Cleanup Priority Act, violates federal laws governing nuclear waste and interstate commerce. As a federal site, Hanford is immune from state regulation, the U.S. Justice Department argued on the Energy Department’s behalf.
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