AG’s office defends worker’s compensation for Hanford laborers during Supreme Court hearing

Electrician Ralph Bisla conducts tests of the finishing line inside the Low-Activity Waste Facility at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

WASHINGTON D.C. — Team members from the Washington Attorney General’s Office attended a Supreme Court hearing on Monday to defend a law that safeguards worker’s compensation for those exposed to radioactive waste—effectively protecting the rights of laborers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, SB 5890 has come under scrutiny several times in the past. Sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, the bill ensures protection for all people, including state employees, who are exposed to dangerous radioactive materials.

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Governor Inslee signed the bill into law on March 11. It has been in effect ever since and has not been formally challenged by the Biden administration. However, the issue was pushed up to the Supreme Court level for judgment by the incumbent president’s team.

Washington Deputy Solicitor General Tera Heintz visited the Supreme Court and delivered oral arguments in an attempt to prevent any further restrictions on the law.

“I’m proud of my legal team for their efforts today,” Ferguson said. “To be blunt, if the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was located outside Washington, D.C., the federal government would not be continuing this cruel legal challenge. As long as I am Attorney General, my office will defend Hanford workers’ ability to access the benefits they earned.”

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The law was targeted twice during the Trump administration; arguing the law violated “intergovernmental immunity” which restricts a state’s ability to regulate federal operations. This was deemed inapplicable because of a 1936 Congress decision to give states authority in worker’s compensation laws on federal projects.

In August 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law after another appeal from the Trump Administration. Then, in September 2021, the Biden Administration appealed that decision and moved it up to the Supreme Court.


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