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Nuclear Waste Program

What are Orders, Penalties, Settlements, and Consent Decrees?

Orders are administrative enforcement documents issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) that describe violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act, chapter 70.105 RCW, and/or the Dangerous Waste Regulations, chapter 173-303 and the actions a person* must take to come into compliance. Chapter 70.105 RCW authorizes Ecology to issue administrative enforcement orders requiring compliance, whenever it determines that a person has violated any provision of Chapter 70.105 RCW or Chapter 173-303 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). See RCW 70.105.095; WAC 173-303-950. The person subject to Ecology’s enforcement order can appeal the order to the Pollution Control Hearing Board (PCHB).

In addition to orders, Ecology may also issue monetary penalties as part of its enforcement actions for violations of any provision of Chapter 70.105 RCW or Chapter 173-303 WAC. See RCW 70.105.080; WAC 173-303-950. Like enforcement orders, a person receiving an Ecology issued penalty can appeal it to the PCHB. Ecology penalties are a monetary incentive to change behavior to ensure compliance with state law. These penalties are aimed at correcting environmental violations and deterring future violations. Ecology considers several factors when deciding the appropriate amount of the penalty.

The nature of the violation:
  • Severity of the violation (public health and/or environmental effect).
  • Magnitude of the violation (amount and type of pollution).
  • Whether the violation was due to negligence, recklessness, or was intentional.
  • Precautions taken to prevent the violation.
The prior behavior of the violator:
  • Record of similar violations or a pattern of violations.
  • Multiple notices of the violation and applicable corrective actions.
Actions taken by the violator to correct the problem:
  • Degree of cooperation in working toward compliance.
  • Timeliness and appropriateness of corrective actions taken.
  • Compensation paid or agreed to for damages to public resources.
Ecology has the discretion to settle an enforcement action (order and/or penalty) with the person subject to that enforcement. A settlement is a contract between Ecology and the person subject to enforcement. A settlement can reduce the amount of time and money spent by Ecology staff, the Attorney General’s Office on appeals, and the person subject to the enforcement. Some typical elements of a settlement include: a statement that the person would not be able to seek administrative or judicial review of the facts giving rise to violations cited by Ecology or the amount being offered to settle the violation, an agreement by the person to waive the right to appeal the settlement, and a list of requirements and often a schedule that Ecology wants to person to comply with.

Consent Decrees
Consent Decrees are judicial orders, which contain a settlement agreement that is subject to continued judicial policing. In instances where Ecology utilizes consent decrees, Ecology and a person will agree on a proposed settlement, and then petition a court to enter the court decree.

Hanford Settlements and decrees
Ecology has entered into settlements and decrees for the Hanford site. Some of these settlements are listed below.


U.S. Department of Energy fined $50,000 for dangerous waste violations at Hanford

RICHLAND – The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a $50,000 penalty to the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) for mishandling dangerous waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington.

Ecology also ordered Energy and its contractor to designate waste, obtain detailed analysis of dangerous waste before storing, and properly maintain records. more...

Media Contact:

Randy Bradbury, Ecology Communications Manager, 509-372-7950, @ecyhanford

Supporting Information


Case closed: Hanford cleanup ruling ups accountability for feds

Late Friday, a U.S. District Court judge resolved the latest lawsuit in Washington’s long-running efforts to hold the federal government accountable for the cleanup of nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation with a 102-page ruling and related orders. In an often scathing assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the court decried the federal government’s “total lack of transparency.”

The ruling requires greater transparency on the part of the federal government; sets forth earlier, firmer deadlines than the feds advocated; and grants the state of Washington direct opportunities to return to court to hold the U.S. accountable when needed. The court also encouraged the parties to work together going forward. more...

Supporting Information


State to take legal action to amend 2010 Hanford cleanup agreement

Petition will be filed with U.S. District Court seeking updated deadlines, additional tank storage

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are asking a federal judge to amend a 2010 agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy and establish new requirements for retrieving and treating Hanford’s tank waste and constructing new double-shelled tanks.

The state’s action will seek to keep Hanford cleanup moving forward in spite of the federal government’s claims that it will not be able to meet important cleanup deadlines set in the parties’ 2010 agreement. more...

Media Contact:

Jamie Smith, Governor Inslee's Communication Office, 360-902-4136

Ginger Wireman, Department of Ecology, 509-372-7950

Supporting Information

14-151 - 09/29/2014

State and feds settle on leaking Hanford tank

RICHLAND – The Washington Department of Ecology agreed to allow a three-month extension to complete waste removal from the leaking double-shell tank AY-102 at the Hanford nuclear site. Moving the deadline will allow the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and its contractor Washington River Protection Solutions to adequately prepare to safely pump both the liquid and sludge waste.

The agreement settles USDOE’s appeal of an Administrative Order Ecology issued in March 2014. The order had required USDOE to begin removing liquid waste from tank AY-102 by September 2014, and removing sludge waste 15 months later.

Until Ecology issued the Administrative Order, USDOE had made no commitment to empty tank AY-102, even though it was known to be leaking into its secondary containment in October 2012. more...

Media Contact:

Erika Holmes, Ecology Communications, 360-515-8793, @ecyhanford

Supporting Information


Governor, Attorney General reject federal Department of Energy’s proposed changes to Hanford cleanup plan

OLYMPIA – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced the state is rejecting the U.S. Department of Energy’s March 31, 2014 proposal to amend the 2010 consent decree governing the retrieval and treatment of high-level radioactive and chemically hazardous waste at Hanford.

"Energy’s proposal lacks sufficient specificity, accountability and enforceability," Inslee said. "An acceptable path forward must be aggressive but realistic and must give the state confidence that tank waste retrieval and treatment will be completed as soon as possible.”

“The people of our region made a significant sacrifice for our nation when the US selected the Hanford site to produce plutonium as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II,” Ferguson said. “Today’s announcement should serve as notice to Energy that we are considering taking the next legal step as early as next week.”  more...

Media Contact:

Jaime Smith, Governor Inslee’s Communications Office, 360-902-4136 Janelle Guthrie, Attorney General’s Director of Communications, 360-586-0725

Dieter Bohrmann, Ecology communications manager, 509-372-7950

Supporting Information

14-048 - 03/21/2014

State orders USDOE to pump leaking Hanford tank

RICHLAND – A state Administrative Order issued today directs the federal government to begin removing liquid waste from a leaking double-shell tank at Hanford by Sept. 1.

Ecology’s order requires pumping to begin about 18 months sooner than what the U.S. Department of Energy proposed in the revised pumping plan they provided the state on March 7.

Tank AY-102 was confirmed to be leaking into the tank’s secondary containment in October 2012. Since then, Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program has been working with USDOE and the contractor to determine the options for addressing the leaking tank.  However, after months of discussions, it is clear to the state that the federal government is not willing to address the regulatory requirements to remove the waste in a timely manner. more...

Media Contact:

Dieter Bohrmann, Ecology media relations, 509-372-7950, @ecyhanford

Supporting Information

14-012 - 01/24/2014

U.S. Department of Energy settles with Ecology for Hanford waste management violations (DE 10156)

RICHLAND — The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have signed an Agreed Order to improve waste management practices in central Hanford and better align those practices with Ecology’s requirements to comply with state dangerous waste regulations at three operating facilities that manage hazardous and mixed hazardous and radioactive waste at Hanford. 

The three facilities are the Central Waste Complex (CWC), Waste Receiving and Processing Facility (WRAP), and T Plant.

DOE agreed to a stipulated penalty of $261,000 and will not appeal the Order. DOE will pay $15,000 immediately, and Ecology will suspend the balance pending DOE completion of corrective actions according to an agreed schedule. more...

Media Contact:

Dieter Bohrmann, Ecology media relations, 509-372-7950, @ecyhanford

Supporting information for DE10156:

10-284 - 10/25/2010

Court approves agreement on new commitments for Hanford tank waste cleanup (08-5085-FVS)

RICHLAND – The U.S. District Court in Spokane has approved and entered a judicial consent decree that imposes a new, enforceable and achievable schedule for cleaning up waste from Hanford’s underground tanks.

The consent decree is one piece of a two-part settlement package, which also includes new milestones in the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), an administrative order between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which governs cleanup at DOE’s Hanford Site. more...

Media Contacts:

Dieter Bohrmann, Communications Manager, Ecology Nuclear Waste Program, 509-372-7950

Karina Shagren, Communications, Office of the Governor, 360-902-4136

Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, Attorney General’s Office, 360-586-0725 

Supporting information for 08-5085-FVS:


Penalty for Failure to Meet M-32 Tank Waste Milestone (00NWPPKW-1250)

Penalty Notice

Administrative Order (00NWPPPKW-1250)