The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Justice granted 17th delay in DOE suit
The department has until May 2 to decide on joining the suit, which means a decision may be near.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. Department of Justice wants another month to decide whether to join in a whistleblower lawsuit against Lockheed Martin Corp. that alleges environmental mismanagement when the company operated the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

It is the 17th time Justice Department officials have asked for a delay since the suit was filed in June 1999 by three current and former plant employees and a Washington-based environmental group. A deadline approved in February expires today.

Those who filed the suit have agreed to the delay until May 2, indicating a decision by the government could be near. In two of the last three requests for delays, the plaintiffs opposed the delays.

Joe Egan, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, would not comment on the latest request or his conversations with government attorneys. In the past, he has said he wouldn't agree to delays unless he was convinced the time was needed to finalize the decision.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Campbell filed the motion late Tuesday. He was not available for comment.

The motion says that "substantial progress" has been made in reviewing the "plethora of issues raised in this case."

The Sun reported last year that Justice Department officials in Louisville who led the investigation recommended that the government intervene to recover hundreds of millions of dollars paid to Lockheed.

In the past, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. has routinely approved the extension request.

The suit claims that Lockheed filed false environmental reports that allowed it to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in operating bonuses. The suit claims the mishandling of radioactive material and other chemicals caused widespread contamination that is costing the federal government more than $1 billion to clean up.

The suits seeks to have the payments refunded. Those who filed the suit said they will continue to push it even if the government doesn’t get involved.

Lockheed Martin has strongly denied the allegations.