The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, July 09, 2004

Suit now proceeds on cleanup challenge by plants neighbors

By Joe Walker

Attorneys will argue the merits of a lawsuit challenging a cleanup agreement for the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant between the state and federal governments now that a judge has refused to dismiss the case.

On July 1, Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden rejected a motion by U.S. Department of Energy lawyers to throw out the suit on grounds that the agreement should have been challenged administratively before going to court. They made the argument even though the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet had already signed two final agreed orders with DOE.

Crittenden ruled that exhausting administrative remedies is unnecessary when the effort is futile, said Tom FitzGerald, an attorney and director of the Kentucky Resources Council environmental group. FitzGerald filed the case on behalf of plant neighbors Ron Lamb and Al and Vivian Puckett, as well as Mark Donham of Brookport, Ill.

The case now moves to the merits of the claim that the agreed orders unlawfully depart from properly managing and regulating hazardous waste at the plant, FitzGerald said.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 3, a month after the two orders were signed resolving hazardous-waste violations at the plant. They required DOE to pay a $1 million fine to resolve state citations of illegal waste storage and disposal, and paved the way for another $30 million in federal money to help finish most of the cleanup by 2019.

DOE officials said the orders allowed the agency to clean up the greatest risks at the plant more quickly. The suit, which says the neighbors' property "and other interests" are hurt by the agreement, seeks to have the orders declared unconstitutional.