Washington State House Democrats


Trump Administration’s Energy Department threatens lives of middle class workers

OLYMPIA – The U.S. Department of Energy’s lawsuit to overturn a new state law will condemn Hanford workers to years of debilitating disease, cancers, and death, according to Washington State Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle).

The Trump Administration filed suit yesterday in federal court to overturn a law passed by the Legislature in 2018. This law ensures that hundreds of Hanford workers exposed to hazardous materials while performing cleanup work receive medical treatment and support under Washington state’s workers’ compensation program.

“I’ll once again work alongside Attorney General Bob Ferguson to defend sick Hanford workers against these cruel attacks from the Trump Administration,” said Rep. Pollet.

The Washington state law, House Bill 1723, was adopted after years of documentation proved that the federal Energy Department and its contractors routinely sought to deny workers compensation to sick Hanford workers. This included coverage of medical treatments for deadly illnesses such as, beryllium disease, brain wasting encephalopathy, lung disease and cancers. The new law creates a presumption that workers with certain rare diseases, caused by occupational exposures, will be assured of medical treatment and compensation under Washington’s workers’ compensation system, reversing decades of Hanford fighting their claims.

Rep. Pollet was not alone in his passion for protecting these workers. Rep. Pollet worked closely with Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland), who is also a retired Hanford employee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and labor representatives from Hanford for three years to pass HB 1723.

“We have a wealth of documentation, including audits and reports from the Energy Department itself, that Hanford workers have been repeatedly exposed to breathing hazardous substances that are the cause of these often-fatal illnesses, such as beryllium disease,” said Rep. Pollet. “There is only one source of beryllium exposure for the workers who will die from beryllium disease – their work at Hanford. There is only one source of exposure for brain and lung wasting diseases for Hanford tank farm workers. Yet, the federal Energy Department and its Hanford contractors have a documented record of fighting tooth and nail against providing workers’ compensation to these workers. The state runs the workers’ compensation program and it is our responsibility to end this unjust denial of coverage.”