The Washington state Department of Ecology announced this week that it will regain direct access to critical federal data about the Hanford Site. This follows a settlement agreement announced with the U.S. Department of Energy, bringing to conclusion the $1.065 million penalty Ecology issued to Energy in 2020. That fine was issued after the Department of Energy restricted the state’s legally mandated direct access to important facility data. The Department of Ecology said this action impaired their ability to maintain regulatory oversight.

Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson stated in a press release, “Our job is to protect the people and environment in Washington. In order to do our job, we need access to basic documents the U.S. Department of Energy is required to provide. We’re pleased to reach agreement with Energy on a solution that gets us what we need.”

Also according to the press release, this settlement comes more than four years after the Department of Energy first missed its Tri-Party Agreement deadline to meet the Department of Ecology’s information requirements. This followed numerous milestone extensions by the Department of Ecology. Prior to this instance, the Department of Ecology had been able to successfully work with the Department of Energy on data access for more than 20 years.

As part of the settlement, the Department of Energy is now required to create a repository for the Department of Ecology to access Tri-Party Agreement-relevant documents, which are needed for compliance inspections.

The agencies say they will continue to work together, as specified in the settlement, to determine which records and data will be added to the repository to fulfill ongoing data requirements.

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