OLYMPIA - Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced the state will appeal the recent U.S. District Court ruling that Initiative 297, the Cleanup Priority Act, is unconstitutional. Attorneys in the case, representing the state Department of Ecology, filed their appeal today with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“ We respectfully disagree with the federal district court's conclusion that Initiative 297 is unconstitutional and we are not content to let this decision rest with a single district court judge,” McKenna said.
The court ruled that federal law preempts I-297 because the initiative “impermissibly regulates” radioactive material subject to the federal Atomic Energy Act. The court also ruled that the initiative's moratorium on mixed waste shipments to facilities such as Hanford violates the Commerce Clause.
Last, the court ruled that the initiative violates the Contract Clause because it impairs the Tri-Party Agreement, among other contracts. The Tri-Party Agreement is a consent enforcement order entered into by the state Department of Ecology, federal Department of Energy, and federal Environmental Protection Agency to govern cleanup at Hanford.
“ Given the high level of public interest and the importance of this issue, the state of Washington's perspective needs to be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit,” McKenna said. “We understand that I-297’s sponsors, as intervening defendants in this suit, also plan to file an appeal themselves.”
Voters approved I-297 by a nearly 70 percent margin in 2004. The primary duty of the Attorney General’s Office is to defend both state agency clients and state law against legal challenges.
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Andy Fitz, Assistant Attorney General, (360) 586-6770
Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725