Schumer, Clinton, Slaughter, Reynolds And Higgins Call On Department Of Labor To Look Harder For Bethlehem Steel Records
Letter Asks Department to Follow Leads Identified in Recent Draft Audit of Bethlehem Steel Site Profile
WASHINGTON, DC Senators Chuck Schumer (DNY) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (DNY) were joined by Representatives Louise Slaughter (DNY), Tom Reynolds (RNY) and Brian Higgins (DNY) in writing to the Department of Labor (DOL) to request an immediate search for additional records about uranium rollings conducted at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, NY during the 1950s.
Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA), DOL has the responsibility to set eligibility dates for former Bethlehem Steel workers by determining when uranium was rolled at the plant. In spite of former workers assertions that uranium rollings took place in 1955 and 1956, DOL has denied the EEOICPA claims of workers employed during these years, stating that no relevant records have been found.
However, a recent draft audit of the Bethlehem Steel site profile, conducted by Sanford Cohen and Associates, points to several places where records of Bethlehem Steel uranium rollings might be found. Specifically, the draft audit points to Department of Energy facilities at Savannah River, Hanford and the Chalk River Reactor as well the Bethlehem Steel facility in Saylorsville, Pennsylvania. The letter asks DOL to immediately search these facilities or to release information showing that they have done so already. In addition, the letter asks DOL to answer several questions about the methods and information they used to arrive at the eligibility dates for Bethlehem Steel.
"The Department of Labor needs to step up its efforts now to find each and every piece of evidence that will help these workers get the money they deserve," Senator Schumer said. "These workers can't wait another minute to find information that could make a difference to their claims."
The Department of Labor should leave no stone unturned in the search for Bethlehem Steel records, said Senator Clinton. We need to be able to assure Bethlehem Steel workers and their survivors that we have looked in every possible place for records of the uranium rollings.
"Workers have steadfastly maintained they rolled uranium at Bethlehem Steel in 1955 and 1956. The Labor Department cant say it didnt happen if they havent bothered to investigate. The United States government has a responsibility to the people of New York to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Anything less is simply indefensible," Congresswoman Slaughter said.
"No one who deserves compensation should have it denied, period," said U.S. Representative Thomas M. Reynolds, RNY26. "These records could provide many of the answers needed to ensure the compensation that these these veterans of the cold war deserve. Furthermore, it will show that the federal government will leave no stone unturned to ensure we meet our responsibility, and provide fairness to these workers and their families."
"This is the next step to make sure that our affected constituents get the consideration they deserve," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "I am proud to be united with my colleagues in the Western New York Congressional Delegation in our effort to ensure that the Department of Labor does not leave anyone out."
The full text of the letter follows:
January 14, 2005
Mr. Shelby Hallmark
Office of Workers Compensation Programs
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Mr. Hallmark:
The Department of Labor (DOL) stated in its recent DOL Comments on the SC&A Audit of the Bethlehem Steel Site Profile that they are responsible for establishing the time period for which a covered facility is deemed covered.
During the December 2004 meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health in Livermore, CA, it was reported that DOL has adjudicated and denied claims for compensation submitted under Subtitle B of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) that are based on exposure during alleged uranium rollings during the 19551956 time period at the Bethlehem Steel facility in Lackawanna, NY.
The Sanford Cohen and Associates, Inc. (SC&A) audit team, in their review of the Bethlehem Steel site profile, stated that: "A comprehensive records search of relevant rolling operations documents was not performed to investigate worker testimony regarding additional rollings after 1952." The audit team recommended that NIOSH direct a further investigation into the statements by the appropriate agency.
Additionally, recently discovered records from the Hanford facility provide valuable supporting documentation for Bethlehem Steel, as evident by their inclusion in the references of the audit report. In light of the discovery of records at Hanford, SC&A recommended that a further search of records be completed at Hanford and that similar searches be completed for the MCW, SRS and Chalk River facilities, as they either provided uranium for rolling or received the finished product from Bethlehem Steel. The audit team also recommended that the Bethlehem Steel records repository in Saylorsville, PA. Be searched for evidence of rolling history.
In light of these audit findings and recommendations, we request the following information and actions be taken with respect to the Bethlehem Steel facility:
1) Please describe the investigative process that DOL follows with regard to Subtitle B claims asserting that there were covered activities outside of the time periods listed in the Federal Register notices published periodically by the Department of Energy (DOE).
2) With respect to the DOLs process, please provide the factual basis for the denials of claims related to reports that there were rollings at Bethlehem Steel in 1955 and 1956.
3) Please provide a description of the inquiry undertaken by DOL, or requests for investigations by DOE or NIOSH, to determine if rollings took place in 195556. Please attach copies of emails, letters, and reports from DOE field offices that describe the specific efforts undertaken and by whom this research was conducted. Please provide copies of all documents that were recovered.
4) Did DOL or other federal agencies, such as DOE, direct a review of uranium shipment records at Savannah River, Hanford and the Chalk River Reactor to determine if shipments were made from Bethlehem Steel (or an intermediary) to these three facilities in 195556? If so, please provide copies of documents. If not, we urge DOL to initiative such a review immediately, as we note that DOE has uncovered a significant amount of shipment data in connection with its mass balance report on recycled uranium.
5) Did DOL or another federal agency, including the DOE, make an inquiry to Bethlehem Steel to determine if they have pertinent records related to additional rollings, and to request a search of their Saylorsville, PA records facility. If not, we urge DOL to initiate such an inquiry immediately. We note that DOL now possesses new subpoena authority through amendments to the FY 05 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108375) which will allow DOL to compel production of records.
We respectfully request that you make this information available to us and the public at the earliest opportunity. We also request that DOL initiate any unperformed review or inquiry described above that might uncover information about uranium rollings after 1952. These actions and information are critical to Bethlehem Steel claimants, as evidenced by the strong turnout and comments at the NIOSH public meeting on January 12 in Cheektowaga, NY. The public deserves to be assured that DOL has taken all possible steps to attain information about uranium rollings at Bethlehem Steel, and to be fully informed about the factual basis DOL is using for uranium.
Please contact any of our offices in regards to this request.
Charles E. Schumer Hillary Rodham Clinton United States Senate United States Senate
Louise Slaughter Thomas M. Reynold United States House of Representatives United States House of Representatives
Brian Higgins United States House of Representatives
CC: John Howard, MD, Director of NIOSH Kate Kimpan, Director of the DOE Office of Worker Advocacy
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