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The U.S. government has no legal recourse over the state of Washington’s one-year-old law that provides workers compensation benefits for workers suffering from ailments stemming from employment on the 75-year-old decommissioned nuclear site in Hanford, Washington, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed its suit in December 2018 over the state’s presumption law, claiming that the law discriminates against the federal government and its Energy Department contractors and aims to directly regulate the federal government by imposing extra cleanup costs of the decommissioned site, according to documents in United States of America v. State of Washington, et al., filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Washington in Yakima, Washington.
The law, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed in early 2018, addressed illnesses and cancers suffered by workers on the 560-square-mile federally operated site known for having manufactured the plutonium used in one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.
A judge with the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Washington granted a summary judgment Thursday “because Congress has authorized several states to regulate workers compensation on federal land to the same extent that they can regulate non-federal land, and because Washington could create a similar presumption as that created in (the new law) if it were addressing a particular risk to Washington employees on non-federal land.”
Two U.S. senators are calling for the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate the way workers compensation claims have historically been handled by the department’s third-party administrator at the Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington.