CH2M agrees to pay $6 million for overbilling the federal government

CH2M Hill agreed Thursday to pay $6.4 million to settle allegations it overbilled the U.S. Air Force for environmental consulting work.

It continued to overbill despite an audit highlighting the problem, said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington state.

CH2M admitted no wrongdoing.

In Eastern Washington, CH2M Hill Hanford Group previously held the tank farm contract at the Hanford nuclear reservation, and CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. is in its 12th year of a contract for central Hanford and groundwater cleanup.

It employs about 1,650 people at the Hanford site.

In late 2017, CH2M was bought by Jacobs Engineering Group.

At issue in the Air Force case was the use of consulting staff who did not meet minimum education and work experience requirements on two contracts.

CH2M Hill reported in 2017 an overpayment from the Air Force of $8.3 million. It paid the government $10.5 million, which included interest.

The Department of Justice contends that CH2M knew about the overpayment as early as 2011 but tried to keep it a secret by claiming that an audit of its labor practices was privileged information.

The $6.4 million settlement amount was reached because the government is allowed to collect double damages, but the statute of limitations had run out on some of the earlier overpayments.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.