The Honorable Spencer Abraham
Secretary of Energy
Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Abraham:
I am writing to provide you with my views on the recently released report by the Department's Inspector General regarding alleged conflicts of interest in legal services for the Yucca Mountain project.
My review of the report suggests that the activities of the law firm Winston and Strawn reveal a level of actual conflict and a perception of conflict so pervasive that the relationship between this firm and the Department is beyond repair. Further, the signing of disclosure statements excluding work the firm conducted for the Nuclear Energy Institute is not only reprehensible but may violate the law.
The fact Winston and Strawn recognized a conflict was likely to occur even before the actual award of the contract is evidenced by the firm's internal memo regarding traveling to Las Vegas with the Nuclear Energy Institute. This underscores the degree to which the firm actively sought to conceal the relationship the firm had with the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Mr. Secretary, you and President Bush have repeatedly declared that any decision about Yucca Mountain would be made on the basis of sound science. It appears now that this is not possible. Because of the relationship this firm had with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Department can not assure itself, the public or the Congress that documents and other materials were not prepared by staff also working with NEI, or that NEI did not have substantial involvement in their preparation.
As a result, it is my opinion that the Department must now terminate the contract with Winston and Strawn and identify all of the documents, reports and other materials that the firm had any part of preparing or perfecting. The Department must face the reality that much, if not all, of the information and data that this law firm had any involvement in is likely tainted and rendered unusable in the Yucca Mountain decision making process, including a licensing proceeding before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
I look forward to your decision concerning this matter. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.