Witness in uranium mill case was sued by Chevron Corp.
One of the key witnesses who took aim at plans to build a uranium mill in Montrose County is no stranger to environmental fights against energy development, and is a defendant in a racketeering case filed against her and others by Chevron Corp.
Ann Maest, a managing scientist with Boulder-based Stratus Consulting, was named as an individual in the suit filed in federal court against Stratus, another employee and several other individuals in Ecuador. Chevron filed suit in federal court in New York.
The company filed suit under the civil provisions of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act after a court in Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in damages as the result of a pollution lawsuit. Chevron refused to apologize and the court increased the award to $18 billion.
Chevron contends in the federal lawsuit that Stratus Consulting and its employees, along with others in the United States and Ecuador, formed an enterprise aimed at damaging Chevron’s reputation and to put “personal psychological pressure” on top executives to force the company to make a “payoff.”
Maest, an expert in groundwater contamination and transportation, participated in “ghostwriting” a report that was purported to have been produced independently, but actually was drafted by the RICO defendants, according to the federal suit.
Stratus Consulting in a statement on its website said its employees acted in their professional capacities as environmental experts retained by the plaintiffs in the Ecuador case and called Chevron’s case against the company and its employees a “disingenuous ruse.”
Stratus and its employees “merely did what they were hired to do,” the company said. “There are no concrete allegations that the Stratus defendants ‘exerted control over’ the alleged enterprise and… they had absolutely no motivation to do so.”
Maest criticized plans for the evaporation ponds at the $150 million uranium mill planned near Naturita as “definitely not state of the art” and said there were “some missing pathways” for contaminants to escape the evaporation ponds into the soils and then into arroyos.
She testified in an administrative hearing conducted by Judge Richard Dana in November in Nucla. The hearing was ordered by a Denver District judge who ruled in a challenge to the radioactive-materials handling permit for the mill that the public process was faulty.
Dana, who presided over a week of testimony by experts and the public, is to hand down a recommendation this week as to whether the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment should reinstate the permit.
Energy Fuels is seeking to build the first uranium mill in the United States since the 1980s when the White Mesa mill near Blanding, Utah, was constructed.
That mill is now owned by Energy Fuels.
Officials with Energy Fuels declined to comment and Sheep Mountain Alliance and Maest didn’t return emails seeking comment.