The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, March 21, 2003

Lockheed: DOE probe ends with no action
However, Justice officials would not discuss the status of the grand jury investigation into claims of false environmental reports.

By Anne Thrower

Lockheed Martin Corp. said the U.S. Department of Justice has closed its investigation into whether the company violated environmental laws while it operated the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Lockheed Martin is pleased, but not surprised, that the Department of Justice has closed its investigation without any action," said Tom Jurkowsky, vice president of communications for Lockheed Martin.

Justice officials in Louisville and Washington, however, would not confirm or comment, or discuss the status of the grand jury investigation that began in November.

The grand jury was impaneled in Louisville after Justice officials spent more than two years investigating claims in a lawsuit that Lockheed Martin employees filed false environmental reports that helped the company earn millions of dollars in operating bonuses. The suit claims Lockheed's failure to meet environmental standards caused widespread contamination that is costing more than $1 billion to clean up.

The company operated the plant for DOE from 1982 to 92, and for USEC Inc. from 1992 to 97.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Campbell said previously that action related to the grand jury's criminal investigation would not affect the suit, filed by three current and former employees and an environmental group. Justice officials are continuing to review thousands of pages of documents related to the suit and have until April 2 to decide whether to join it as a plaintiff.

Last month, Bechtel Jacobs, which is in charge of cleanup at the plant for DOE, reported receiving a subpoena from the grand jury requesting documents related to the use of trichlorethylene, a highly volatile chemical that was once used to clean radioactive contamination and other chemicals from production equipment.

Leaking TCE, laced with radioactive materials and other chemicals, has been identified as the cause of groundwater and soil contamination that is a major problem at the plant.

Greg Cook, a spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs, said the company was notified Wednesday that it no longer had to comply with the subpoena. He said the company sent more than 200,000 pages of documents to the grand jury as well as a considerable volume of electronic data earlier this month. The company said it was preparing to send hundreds of thousands of pages of additional documents when the notice was received.

Cook said he didn't know why the subpoena was withdrawn.

Campbell said Thursday that he could not comment on the status of the grand jury investigation and referred questions to Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ream in the criminal division.

Ream declined comment and referred questions to Howard Stewart, who works in the Justice Department's environmental fraud division in Washington. Stewart also declined comment.

Lockheed Martin has contended since the suit was filed in 1998 that it had done nothing wrong.

"The Department of Justice's decision reaffirms our long-held belief that our former employees at the site worked closely with their counterparts at DOE to ensure that hazardous waste was handled in accordance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations," Jurkowsky said.

Jurkowsky said he didn't know the contents of the Justice Department's notification to the company that the grand jury had closed its investigation without action. "I only know," he said, "that our attorneys were told that it is closed and no action would be taken."