Famous Hanford Nuclear Whistleblower Retires, Leaving an Inspiring Legacy

When Tom Carpenter first emerged as a whistleblower on the so-called ‘Hanford Site,’ a government-operated nuclear weapons facility in rural Washington state which later became disastrously polluted, he did so at great personal and professional risk. Now, he’s stepping back from his distinguished career and has a very interesting write up in Crosscut. Read some excerpts below:

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson first met Carpenter at the beginning of his first term in 2013. Something about Carpenter clicked with Ferguson, whose office sometimes partnered with Hanford Challenge on litigation, which is not a common practice between the Attorney General’s Office and a nonprofit watchdog organization.

“I just felt we should. … It has been a partnership throughout my time as attorney general,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said his office’s litigators — while good at their jobs — sometimes become narrowly focused on legal issues, while Carpenter brought a broader perspective. 

“His greatest strength: He understands the human impact of what is happening at Hanford,” Ferguson said.

Hanford Challenge joined the state in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy — filed in 2015 and settled in 2018 — over workers exposed to toxic vapors from Hanford’s underground radioactive waste tanks.  Ferguson said Carpenter helped his office to build a rapport with the workers on whose behalf the state filed the lawsuit.

Ferguson described Carpenter as an attorney who knew when to pursue a matter and when an issue did not reach the need for litigation. Meanwhile, Carpenter was not afraid to clash with anyone, including the Attorney General’s Office, when he felt that was the right action. “Tom would press me when he felt it was appropriate. … I trusted his judgment when he called me; I knew it was important,” Ferguson said.

Read the full article here.