Government weighs options after $554 million Rocky Flats verdict |

Government weighs options after $554 million Rocky Flats verdict

DENVER – With a $553.9 million verdict hanging over its head, the Department of Energy was reviewing its options Wednesday after a jury ruled that two DOE contractors allowed plutonium from the Rocky Flats weapons plant to contaminate nearby land.The contractors, Dow Chemical Co. and the former Rockwell International Corp., were moving ahead with plans to appeal.”We’re disappointed in the jury’s verdict,” Energy Department spokesman Mike Waldron said Wednesday. “We, in conjunction with our former contractors, are evaluating how best to proceed.”A federal jury on Tuesday decided Dow Chemical and Rockwell damaged land around the now-defunct plant through negligence that exposed thousands of property owners to plutonium and increased their risk of health problems.Dow Chemical operated the Rocky Flats for the government from the 1950s until 1975; Rockwell ran it from 1975 until 1989, when it closed. The plant made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads.Limits in state and federal law could reduce the payout to $352 million after U.S. District Judge John Kane reviews the verdict, said Louise Roselle, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed 16 years ago on behalf of 13,000 people.Taxpayers have been footing the bill for the contractors’ legal bills and would pay any penalties under Energy Department contracts indemnifying the companies.

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