Albuquerque, NM -- Earlier today U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera dismissed the lawsuit (pdf) brought last August by the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), an Albuquerque-based nonprofit, against the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Department of Energy (DOE) over these agencies' evolving Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), a $6 billion plutonium complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The lawsuit (the entire docket is available here) was brought under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related law.
The lawsuit sought to compel NNSA and DOE to pause design and construction of the massive project to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) that examined alternatives to the project, which is much bigger, with far greater environmental impact, than when it was originally proposed and analyzed under NEPA in 2003.
"We believe our arguments were sound and remain sound, factually and legally. We are studying the judge's opinion closely and will decide our legal course of action over the next few days," said Study Group Director Greg Mello. "It is never legal for a federal agency to decide to implement a project with significant environmental impact without an applicable, objective EIS, and that is what is happening here."
"This decision, while disappointing, will not stop our opposition to this highly destructive project. It's a speed bump. If NNSA thinks they are in the clear now, they are wrong. This ruling doesn't change the facts on the ground -- the high seismicity, the cramped site and poor geology, the lack of need, the lack of money, and the basic horror and immorality of the mission. All of these are unfavorable to this project."
The Study Group is represented by Thomas Hnasko and Dulcinea Hanuschak of the Hinkle Law Firm in Santa Fe, Lindsay Lovejoy of Santa Fe, and Diane Albert of Albuquerque.
Study Group Director Greg Mello is currently in Washington, DC, meeting with congressional staff, federal safety officials, and executive branch officials, carrying the message (pdf) that attempting to pursue this project at the same time as eight (8) or more $100+ M construction projects at LANL in the same immediate area, and also at the same time as five (5) other multi-billion-dollar nuclear facilities elsewhere around DOE's weapons complex, would be highly imprudent. The Study Group believes the project is unnecessary and damaging to national security.
A call to pause the project on safety grounds was also voiced by Dr. Everett Beckner, who managed the nuclear weapons complex for President G.W. Bush.
Judge Herrera's opinion rested heavily on the "supplemental" EIS process now underway, stating that this process itself, which began only after the Study Group's litigation was filed, and its "public participation" component in particular were sufficient for the court to stay its hand -- and dismiss the lawsuit. The judge did not rule on the Study Group's motion to enjoin the project.
The Study Group has been urging members of the public to stay away from the SEIS hearings, which it regards as illegitimate. "We need to call them 'hearings,' in quotations," Mello said, "because the public record is replete with Administration statements saying it is not under any circumstances going to reconsider its commitment to this project, unlike what is implied in the hearing process; because the SEIS openly and illegally rejects all alternatives but the favored project in its opening pages; and, more broadly, because we believe experience has shown that DOE has never changed its course of action as a result of NEPA "public participation."
The Study Group has instead called citizens to engage substantively with government on all levels to challenge and reform NNSA's position in regard to this giant project. Local government resolutions supporting the Study Group's lawsuit were passed by four local governments.
Mello: "In numerous discussions public and private spanning many years we have concluded that unless citizens can find the courage to face the abyss of freedom and learn to act politically, they will largely remain incapable of self-governance."
The Study Group's recent bulletins discussing these matters can be found here.