Judge wants to see DOE documents

The federal government may not use Idaho as a dump. NewImage

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to make available the court documents sought by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus involving nuclear waste shipments to eastern Idaho.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Monday ordered the agency to produce the documents within a week so Winmill can determine whether to make them public.

Andrus filed a lawsuit in September after Energy Department officials responded to Andrus’ Freedom of Information Act request with pages of blacked out documents.

Andrus wants information about several hundred pounds of proposed research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory that require a waiver to a nuclear waste agreement the Energy Department and Idaho signed in 1995.

Andrus said signing the waiver could open the door to tons more radioactive waste from the Energy Department and turn the state into a nuclear waste repository.

“We have to know what’s going on,” Andrus said Tuesday. “Their stonewalling and reluctance lends credence to my suspicion. That’s all I have right now – a strong suspicion backed up by a history of an agency that has run roughshod over the public for way too many years.”

Andrus, who has a long history of battles with the Energy Department over nuclear waste entering Idaho, contends in his lawsuit the agency failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requirements by withholding information that should be public.

The Energy Department argues that the information can’t be made public because it involves internal communications that fall under an exemption to the act. The agency also cited attorney work-product privilege, and attorney-client privilege.

Winmill in his 29-page ruling said the Energy Department’s explanation for blacking out pages of documents didn’t say whether the redactions “buried information relating to substantive policy about the transport and storage of large quantities of potentially dangerous nuclear waste, disclosure of which may very well be in the public’s interest.”