Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Panel of Congress Criticizes Deal with Bomb Plant $18.5 Million Settlement Is Called Too Lenient

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Panel of Congress Criticizes Deal with Bomb Plant $18.5 Million Settlement Is Called Too Lenient

Article excerpt

AT the time, the United States Justice Department presented it as a major victory. Last spring, after a five-year government investigation, Rockwell International pleaded guilty to mishandling toxic wastes at the Rocky Flats plant near Denver that it ran for the Department of Energy.

The fine Rockwell agreed to pay was $18.5 million, the second largest ever levied for illegal pollution.

But now a congressional subcommittee that has analyzed the case claims the perpetrators got off lightly. Justice Department prosecutors were too quick to cut a deal, according to a just-released report by the investigations panel of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

"Main Justice officials who ultimately signed off on the agreement appeared to place little value on environmental crimes," the study states. The report observes, for instance, that the impressive-sounding $18.5 million fine was actually $4 million less than Rockwell earned operating Rocky Flats during the period in which it illegally polluted, 1987 to 1989.

By settling fast, the Justice Department gave up the chance to pursue individual indictments against Rockwell employees and possibly against Department of Energy (DOE) officials as well.

Energy Department inattention made it culpable in the case, according to congressional investigators. Case documents show that for much of the 15 years Rockwell made plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs at Rocky Flats, the department had the equivalent of only two full-time workers assigned to environmental oversight.

The Department of Justice denies the allegations. "It's easy to criticize someone else's decision after the fact, especially when you don't have all the facts," the department said in a statement. "The department made sound prosecutorial judgements based on evidence and expertise. Contrary to the subcommittee's allegations, there was no `mindset' or direction to go easy on Rockwell, DOE, or any individuals involved in running the DOE facility."

But as a result of the Rocky Flats settlement, the congressional study recommends that Congress consider taking all nuclear-weapons development and production away from the Energy Department, and giving it to the Department of Defense. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.