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New U.S. Bill Would Further Protect Hanford Whistleblowers

A new federal bill was introduced Monday that would further protect whistleblowers at Hanford and other nuclear sites. The legislation was penned by thee Democratic senators: Oregon’s Ron Wyden, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

The high-profile Hanford whistleblower Walt Tamosaitis said when you take on the federal government there’s a huge learning curve. And it’s often one person against the entire nation’s taxpayer coffers. Tamosaitis was fired after he brought up concerning safety issues at Hanford’s waste treatment plant.

This new Senate bill would seek to even the playing field for whistleblowers like Tamosaitis a bit.

It would give whistleblowers more time to bring their cases forward. They currently have six months, but that would extend to a year.

Also, government contractors would be on the hook to pay for these whistleblower cases -- unless the U.S. Department of Energy was somehow responsible.

In addition, it would broaden the definition of a whistleblower to someone who has fraud, waste or abuse to report. Right now federally-protected whistleblowers can only file complaints about safety issues.

Tamosaitis settled with his former employer federal contractor URS in 2015 for about $4 million. The DOE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.