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Physicians, environmental groups sue Buttigieg, federal agencies in Rocky Flats case

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A pivotal hearing is scheduled tomorrow morning in a D.C. Federal District Court regarding a lawsuit which names U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and four federal bodies as defendants.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), PSR Colorado and four Colorado environmental organizations have taken a significant legal stand against the construction of an eight-mile recreational pathway in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

The lawsuit challenges the project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and focuses on the potential cancer risks associated with plutonium contamination in the area, which is the site of the Rocky Flats Plant, a former nuclear weapons production facility operational from 1952 to 1989. The plant left a legacy of radioactive pollution from plutonium, americium and uranium.

Plaintiffs argue that the Greenway Project’s environmental and health assessments fall short in addressing severe concerns. The route of the project is particularly contentious, passing through areas heavily contaminated with plutonium, which raises significant public safety and environmental impact issues. An earlier 2016 study suggested alternative routes through less contaminated areas, yet the Greenway Project’s current trajectory cuts across the most polluted sections of the refuge. Recent findings of high plutonium levels in soil samples near the proposed trail have intensified scrutiny and opposition to the project.

The lawsuit’s aim is to halt construction and demand a reassessment of the project route to prioritize public safety and environmental preservation.

Tomorrow’s hearing will deliberate on the plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction against the pathway’s construction, focusing on the project’s adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act and the alarming history of plutonium contamination in the region. PSR members and healthcare professionals are expected to attend.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.