Watchdog group appeals decision to allow pathogen work at lab

A Lawrence Livermore Laboratory watchdog group recently appealed a decision by a district court to allow research on deadly pathogens such as anthrax.

The appeal, filed by TriValley CAREs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenges a September ruling made by the U.S. District Court in Oakland. That decision permitted the Department of Energy to proceed with research at a Biosafety Level-3 facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, according to

The Department of Energy oversees research at the national security lab on microbes, including anthrax, plague, Q fever and other deadly pathogens.

TriValley CAREs is demanding that the appeals court overturn the earlier ruling and require a comprehensive environmental assessment before any research continues. The group calls the laboratory work “biowarfare research.”

A laboratory spokesman, Steve Wampler, decried the characterization and maintained that biowarfare research is illegal under a convention signed by the United States, reports. He said that the research is seeking to create new technologies capable of detecting these pathogens in public places.

"What we are trying to do is develop bio-detection technology to protect and help innocent civilians," Wampler said, according to "This is probably one of the best-protected BSL-3 facilities in the country," he said. "We have protective service officers, we have fences, we have limited access to the building to only a few people."

According to TriValley CAREs attorney Scott Yundt, the government’s own analysis pointed out the facility’s dangers.

A study by the Energy Department found terrorism or sabotage to have a low probability of occurring, but found that any breach of the facility could have potentially devastating consequences.

Yundt said the government study failed to adequately examine the consequences of a breach.