Washington state lawmakers who passed bill to make it easier for sick Hanford site workers to qualify for state workers’ compensation protest administration’s challenge to the new law Biden.
Some 66 state lawmakers, including Democratic and Republican representatives and senators, this week signed a letter opposing a challenge to the law filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Trump administration challenged the law passed in 2018, and more recently a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld it. Judge Milan Smith, an appointment of former President George W. Bush, wrote the panel’s opinion, the letter noted.
“We are writing to urge you to reconsider attempts by the United States Department of Justice to block a majority bipartisan state law to provide industrial insurance coverage to workers made ill at the federal Hanford nuclear site during of its multi-year clean-up project, ”the letter sent. Wednesday to the president.
“It is very sad that the Justice Department of the Biden administration has ignored these previous rulings and is now asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn our state’s decision to protect workers sickened on the job on the job. Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, ”the letter said.
Hanford’s 580 square mile nuclear reserve is contaminated with radioactive and hazardous chemical waste from past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. About $ 2.5 billion is spent there every year on cleaning up the environment.
Among the signatories to the letter were State Senator Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, and State Representative Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla. They were the only officials from Legislative Districts 8, 9, and 16, each with constituents from Benton or Franklin County, to sign the letter.
When the appeal was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court last month, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, was surprised and angered by the decision.
He couldn’t believe Biden, as a longtime champion of American workers, had been consulted on the call, he said.
“President Biden must agree that Hanford workers should be able to access the benefits they have earned, including workers’ compensation,” he said.
Governor Jay Inslee, also a Democrat, also denounced the latest appeal.
“The Justice Department’s decision to pursue this matter in the United States Supreme Court is a mistake that threatens to exacerbate the suffering of Hanford workers,” he said in a statement.
Opposition to the sick workers law
The Washington state law at issue makes it easier for sick workers in Hanford to qualify for state workers’ compensation benefits.
It requires the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry to presume that radiological or chemical exposures to the Hanford nuclear reserve caused neurological or respiratory illnesses reported by past or current employees of the sub- Hanford traders.
Many types of cancer are also presumed to be caused by work in Hanford, as well as some limited heart problems, under the new law.
Workers no longer have to prove that not only was their illness not caused by something else in their life, but exposure to a specific chemical caused their illness. Some 1,500 different volatile gases were found in the waste from Hanford’s underground reservoirs.
Most other workers in Washington State have the onus of proving that their injury or illness is the direct result of a specific incident in the workplace so that they will be paid.
The Justice Department argued that the description of diseases covered in the state’s Hanford law is so vague that it could cover hundreds of common illnesses, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, Parkinson’s disease , Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.