SC getting $600 million from federal government in plutonium removal settlement

Updated: Aug. 31, 2020 at 6:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced a $600 million settlement between the state and the federal government Monday morning at the State House.

The settlement gives the Department of Energy up to 2037 to remove 9.5 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site. The plutonium was relocated to SRS in the early 2000s officials said.

In exchange, the state cannot sue the federal government over this issue until after 2037.

Wilson said he expects to receive the money by October 1. According to his office, this is the largest single settlement in South Carolina’s history.

The money is coming from the Federal Judgement Fund. This fund pays court judgments and compromise settlements of lawsuits against the federal government. Congress does not have to appropriate the money.

Wilson was joined by U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), and members of the General Assembly representing Aiken County

“This settlement ends years of contentious litigation with the United States government,” Wilson said. “Contractually enshrines obligations of the federal government in the long run to prevent South Carolina from becoming a nuclear dumping ground.”

If the Department of Energy does not remove the plutonium by January 1, 2037, monetary penalties will be reinstated and the department will be subject to additional litigation, according to Wilson.

The Department of Energy was originally required by federal law to remove the plutonium by 2022.

“These were deadlines the Department could not meet,” Secretary Brouillette said.

According to Wilson’s office, the settlement ends six years of litigation over the removal of the weapons-grade plutonium.

Wilson said the money from the settlement will be sent to his office first and then sent to the state’s General Fund. He did mention about $75 million from the settlement will be used to cover legal fees for private attorneys that helped with the litigation over the years.

The Attorney General said, without these attorneys, this large settlement wouldn’t have been possible.

Governor Henry McMaster was not at Monday’s press conference. He penned a letter to Attorney General Wilson about the settlement. His office said the letter details both McMaster’s appreciation for Wilson’s efforts and his concerns related to the settlement agreement.

“I cannot support a Settlement Agreement that extends DOE’s existing removal deadlines by up to twenty years,” McMaster wrote, “and potentially sidelines South Carolina’s future leadership by restricting the State’s ability to enforce its legal rights.”

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