The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, May 03, 2003

Department of Justice wants another delay
The whistleblower suit against Lockheed Martin was filed in June 1999, and this is the 18th request for a delay.

By Bill Bartleman bbartleman@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

Another month has passed, and the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking another delay to decide if it will join in a whistleblower suit against Lockheed Martin Corp. that alleges environmental mismanagement when the company operated the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

It is the 18th time since the suit was filed in June 1999 that the Justice Department has asked for a delay. The most recent deadline expired Friday.

Like the most recent requests, a motion filed later Friday in U.S. District Court asks for a 30-day extension. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. has routinely approved all the previous requests.

The suit was filed by three current and former employees and an environmental group claiming that Lockheed filed false environmental reports that allowed it to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in operating fees. It also claims that Lockheed Martin's action caused some of the environmental problems that are costing the government more than $1 billion to clean up.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Campbell, who filed the motion, said those who filed the suit have agreed to another delay.

Joe Egan, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, was not available for comment Friday and did not return a telephone message left with his suburban Washington office. In the past, he's said he wouldn't agree to future delays if he saw no evidence that government officials were close to making a decision.

Like all the other motions, this one says that "substantial progress" has been made in addressing 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.

There also have been reports that the U.S. Department of Energy is causing the delay because it opposes the government's joining the suit. Lockheed ran the plant for DOE at the time the environmental problems occurred, from 1982 to 92.

Lockheed Martin has strongly denied the allegations.