Press Releases

Legislation follows Seattle Times investigative report detailing Hanford workers’ toxic exposure and related illnesses, as well as financial challenges related to lack of federal worker’s compensation benefits

Seattle Times: Hanford workers were given leaky respirators at contaminated job site, contractor’s documents revealLINK

Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would make it easier for workers at the Hanford clean-up and other nuclear clean-up sites to receive the full benefits they’re entitled to when suffering illnesses due to toxic exposure on the job

Representative Smith: “This bill would help spur research necessary to understand the impacts of exposure to toxic substances on workers’ health and ultimately enable workers to more easily receive the compensation they deserve for illnesses contracted on the job”

Senator Murray: “This legislation takes the right steps to…ensure Hanford workers and those at other nuclear clean-up sites can obtain the full benefits they’re entitled to when they’ve contracted illnesses as a result of workplace exposure”

Legislation also supported by Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598, Central WA Building & Construction Trades

(Washington, D.C.) –
U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, WA-09), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health and labor committee, introduced legislation in the Senate and House that will ensure cleanup workers at the Hanford Nuclear Site and other Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear sites can more easily claim worker’s compensation benefits when they suffer from certain medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic substances. Currently, Hanford workers can file for worker’s compensation claims when they have health issues through both the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries and DOE’s third-party insurer, Penser. Washington state’s 2018 presumption law makes it easier for Hanford workers to file for state compensation claims for covered conditions, but the state program, while valuable, very often falls short of being able to compensate these workers equitably when they are off the job from work-related illness due to toxic exposure. The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 seeks to make such claims at the federal level more achievable, and allow Hanford workers and workers at similar DOE sites to collect the full worker’s compensation benefits they’re entitled to.

“Workers at nuclear cleanup sites such as Hanford face risks to their health and wellbeing every day. Unfortunately, it is difficult for workers to receive benefits under federal law in many instances when they suffer medical illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances,” said Congressman Smith. “This bill would help spur research necessary to understand the impacts of exposure to toxic substances on workers’ health and ultimately enable workers to more easily receive the compensation they deserve for illnesses contracted on the job. I am pleased to join Senator Murray in introducing this bill and appreciate her tireless leadership in fighting for Hanford workers.”

“Unfortunately, it is clear there’s a lot we don’t know regarding the health outcomes of exposure to the toxic substances required for plutonium production and other nuclear site activities—and workers like those at the Hanford site have paid the price for this critical hole in the research,” said Senator Murray. "This legislation takes the right steps to help fix this knowledge gap and ensure Hanford workers and those at other nuclear clean-up sites can obtain the full benefits they’re entitled to when they’ve contracted illnesses as a result of workplace exposure. I’m proud to be introducing it with my Washington state colleague Representative Smith, and I’m looking forward to working together to push this needed legislation through to the finish line.” 

The legislation comes after the Seattle Times ran an investigative story in March 2020 profiling a worker who suffered from seizures after being exposed to toxic substances at the Plutonium Finishing Plant on the Hanford site, as well as the financial problems the worker encountered following their diagnosis. The Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would expand covered employees and the covered illnesses under subtitle E, Section 3671 of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (EEOICPA) to specifically include employees exposed to toxic substances at cleanup sites. Part E provides variable cash and medical benefits for DOE contractor and subcontractor employees who contracted an illness or died as a result of exposure to any toxic substance, as well as their eligible survivors. A person is eligible for Part E benefits if it is “at least as likely as not” that exposure to a toxic substance at a DOE facility caused, contributed to, or aggravated the worker’s illness or death.

There has been a lack of substantial clinical or epidemiological studies performed in relation to toxic exposures at DOE sites, and as such, there is no way to create an accurate causal correlation for Part E, similar to what has been effectively established for Part B of the program, which involves radiological exposures. As a result of the lack of this knowledge, federal law provides very little remedy to workers who suffer illness from these toxic exposures. To that end, the Toxic Exposure Safety Act of 2020 would amend Part E of the EEOICPA to establish a presumption of occupational disease exposures, create a research program to determine exposure-disease correlation, and direct the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate scientific evidence regarding chemical exposures—making it easier for Hanford clean-up workers and workers at other DOE nuclear clean-up sites to claim federal worker’s compensation benefits.

“Every day our Nation relies on skilled and dedicated working families to serves our Country’s needs and accomplish our most important goals. There is no more apparent example of this dedication than the decades of operation and remediation performed at our Nation’s nuclear cleanup sites.  The hazardous nature of this work has the potential to expose workers to some of the most toxic substances on earth.  Too long have the impacts of these toxic substance exposures been overlooked and their study underfunded, leaving many hardworking American families without the care they deserve.  Senator Murray’s efforts address this injustice for so many families struggling with illness and will secure the research needed to protect American families as they continue their work on behalf of us all,” said Nickolas Bumpaous, President of Central Washington Building & Construction Trades.

“I’ve worked 43 years in the construction trades, most of them at Hanford, and now as the Business Manager of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union. Through all of those years I’ve witnessed firsthand the dedication of thousands of hard working men and women to support the national mission. I’ve also witnessed their sacrifices and illnesses and the hazardous work and the toxic environments these men and women have been exposed to. These workers deserve more and better care. I support and appreciate Senator Murray’s efforts to help these dedicated working families,” said Randy Walli, Business Manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598.

Congressman Smith has fought for worker safety and protections at the Hanford site for years. In his role as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Smith has passed into law provisions to enhance whistleblower protections, increase accountability for the release of radioactive or hazardous contamination, and improved transparency on vapors from nuclear tanks. He has also fought for better oversight of nuclear facilities across the country, including protecting the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) from dangerous cuts and reforms that harm its mission of independent nuclear safety and oversight. Senator Murray has long worked to make sure the federal government honors its moral and legal obligation to Hanford clean-up, including fighting repeatedly against efforts to slash or cut federal funding for the vital DOE project and advocating on at the federal level on separate occasions to help ensure Hanford workers receive sick leave back pay and regular pay during work-stop periods due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Murray and her office began working in 2019 to investigate the needs of Hanford workers who have specifically been exposed to toxic chemicals at DOE sites. 

In addition to the Central Washington Building & Construction Trades, and Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598, the legislation is supported by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, Metal Trades.

Read the bill text HERE.

For more information, read the fact sheet available HERE.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 7027, the Child Care Is Essential Act, and H.R. 7327, the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act.

“Families and child care providers face unprecedented uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Without additional investments in child care, parents across the country will be unable to return to work. Even before this pandemic, many working families struggled to find affordable, high-quality child care in their communities and this public health crisis has widened existing racial, social, and gender-based inequities in accessing child care.

“These critical child care bills would invest in desperately needed resources to scale up child care infrastructure and expand household access to refundable child care tax credits to soften the blow of child care expenses. Together, these two pieces of legislation help parents going back to work while providing struggling child care centers the ability to stay open or reopen safely.

“The Child Care Is Essential Act would enable child care providers to keep their staff on the payroll and cover operating expenses, provide tuition and co-payment relief for working families struggling to afford child care, and promote healthy child care facilities that meet public health standards. 

“The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act would modify and expand child care tax credits for families as well as payroll and employee retention tax credits to stabilize the struggling child care industry. This bill invests specifically independent care for essential workers during COVID-19, recognizing the significant challenges faced by these families in particular.

“Lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care not only hurts families but also hinders the public health response to COVID-19, the ability to reopen our economy safely, and an equitable economic recovery. I will continue to fight for more federal funding and support to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care services in Washington State and across the country to ensure both families and child care center workers are supported during this public health crisis and beyond."

For more information, you can read the Fact Sheets for the Child Care Is Essential Act here and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act here.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled his version of the COVID-19 supplemental legislation, which includes billions in additional funding for the Department of Defense.

“At the onset of the health crisis, President Trump denied the very existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the Trump Administration has failed to consistently acknowledge, much less confront, the pandemic. President Trump’s response has been a complete disaster.

“Now, more than two months after the House passed the Heroes Act to help Americans cope with the pandemic, Senate Republicans have rolled out their rebuttal, which directs billions of taxpayer dollars to the Department of Defense while doing very little to address the economic and health crises our country faces.

“While it is true that COVID-19 poses a real and credible threat to our national security, you don’t have to be doctor or a four-star general to understand that spending billions on new helicopters, combat vehicles, and fighter jets is not the solution to this complex problem. It is also true that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on small manufacturers who play a crucial role in our industrial base. We need to implement smart policies that actually support these small manufacturers and maintain the stability of our supply chain – Leader McConnell’s procurement wish list is not the solution.

“It is also no secret that earlier this year the Trump Administration abused the reprogramming authority to divert funding from military equipment and modernization accounts to pay for the President’s vanity wall. Now, Republican Senators are trying to capitalize on the urgency of the moment to backfill these accounts while in the same breath arguing that unemployment benefits should be cut in the name of fiscal responsibility.

“It is clear that a divided Republican Conference produced a weak bill, and I have faith that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer will work tirelessly to make significant improvements before this legislation is seriously considered by either chamber of Congress.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 7608, the first minibus of the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills which includes State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs:

“This appropriations package makes important investments to promote and maintain our global leadership in development and diplomacy, combat climate change, protect public lands, invest in SNAP and food security, and support America’s veterans and their families. The bill also provides much-needed emergency appropriations for global COVID-19 relief efforts.

“This package provides funding for our nation’s most vital food security programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and child nutrition programs. The bill also puts pressure on the US Department of Agriculture to extend child nutrition program waivers through the end of the next school year to ensure low-income children and families can continue to receive meals even if schools continue in a distanced learning format. As our nation grapples with the economic impact of the pandemic, and millions remain unemployed, it is even more imperative that Congress ensures that everyone who is struggling to make ends meet can still receive nutritious meals.  

“The federal government must play a lead role in the effort to address the existential threat of climate change. This bill prioritizes investments to do this both in the U.S. and around the world. Funding for the EPA and Environmental Justice programs are significantly increased from last year. It also fills the void of U.S. leadership on the international stage left by the Trump Administration, investing in international funds and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, this bill continues funding by the federal government for Puget Sound recovery and restoration.

“This bill also includes increases in the Urban Indian Health Program (UIHP) and Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) to support health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  We are fortunate to be home to the Seattle Indian Health Board, which serves thousands of patients in King County. The SIHB also houses the Urban Indian Health Institute, the only TEC in the country serving Urban Indian Health Programs nationwide. The research, data, and disease surveillance conducted for indigenous people throughout the U.S. is as important as ever amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the world faces a global pandemic, the value of our investments in development and diplomacy has never been clearer. From humanitarian assistance to global health security to child and maternal health, U.S. investments abroad help reduce poverty and famine, promote stability, and protect public health. In addition to increased funding in all of these areas, we restore funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) that was cut by President Trump and provide emergency funding for our international response to COVID-19.

“I am also pleased that this bill funds several international programs in areas that have been targeted by the Trump Administration. We provide funding for international reproductive health and family planning and repeal the Global Gag Rule. The bill also increases funds to promote equality for the LGBTQ+ communities abroad.

“This bill provides increases in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs budget to better serve and protect our veterans and their families. These funds will expand access to medical services and support medical facilities while boosting oversight across the VA to ensure proper implementation of VA programs. This package makes critical investments in mental health care, suicide prevention outreach, women’s health, and homelessness assistance programs. It also includes much-needed funding for the VA Electronic Health Record System, which will enhance the patient experience across all VA facilities.

“The programs that Congress chooses to fund reflects its values and priorities. I will continue to fight for funding that reinforces our commitment to the health and wellbeing of communities here in the U.S. and around the world.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act:

“The Great American Outdoors Act is one of the most significant investments in environmental conservation in a generation. The bill provides permanent, full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a vital program for Washington state and the most successful conservation program to conserve public lands, increase access to green spaces for underserved and low-income communities, and preserve natural habitats.

“The bill also creates the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to help address the backlog of desperately needed repairs of trails, buildings, and other public infrastructure within the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education.

“As the impacts of climate change increasingly harm communities around the country, this bill is an enormously important investment in our children, our environment, and our quality of life that will help protect the great outdoors for generations to come.”