Organizations file suit against Dept. of Energy—Where is public process?

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Antonito, Colo. – Conejos County Clean Water, Inc., a citizen’s group based in Antonito, Colorado, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, a group based in Alamosa, Colorado, and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, a non-governmental organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, announced today that they have filed suit in federal court to compel the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that analyzes the impacts of transporting radioactive, hazardous and toxic waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) through the state of Colorado via a storage and truck-to-rail transfer site in Conejos County.

In November 2009, Conejos County officials and citizens of Antonito discovered the active transfer of LANL wastes by crane from flat-bed trucks to rail gondolas less than a quarter mile from the town and within 100 yards of a headwaters tributary to the Rio Grande.  The waste was contained in soft sacks which can hold 24,000 pounds of waste.  Neither the local governments nor residents were notified of any plans of the DOE, LANL, San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad, and EnergySolutions (a private Utah-based corporation which operates a radioactive and hazardous waste dump 75 miles west of Salt Lake City) to transport and transfer radioactive, hazardous and toxic waste in Conejos County.  The County halted the activities pending compliance with local land use laws.

“This is a case of the DOE and their contractors trying to impose their will on local communities without providing notice and without any opportunity for a fair impact review,” said Andrea Guajardo, member of the board of directors of Conejos County Clean Water, Inc. “That DOE would attempt to force these impacts on Conejos County, the poorest county in Colorado, without engaging the public in a meaningful way is inexcusable – and illegal,” Ms. Guajardo added.

In 2005, LANL and DOE signed a consent decree with the New Mexico Environment Department agreeing to clean up certain waste dumps at the LANL facility by 2015.  The waste that was shipped is part of a “cleanup campaign” funded by stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the headwaters of the Rio Grande,” San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council director Christine Canaly said, “it’s imperative the public be engaged in this process.”

DOE officials recently stated that waste from other DOE sites, including Sandia National Laboratory, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Pantex Site, located north of Amarillo, Texas, could also be transferred at the Antonito location, once it is established as a transfer site for toxic, hazardous, and radioactive wastes.

“DOE will continue to generate radioactive, toxic, and hazardous wastes and EnergySolutions is looking for ways to take a larger cut of the DOE waste for its dump,” stated Joni Arends, director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.   “The community efforts to protect the San Luis Valley and the headwaters of the Rio Grande are absolutely necessary for now and in the future.  If the transfer site in Antonito is opened, DOE will utilize it to the fullest extent and the people of the Valley could expect more and more shipments from other DOE sites.”

Colorado-based attorney Jeff Parsons, along with the non-profit law firm Energy Minerals Law Center, through attorney Travis Stills, represent the groups.

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2 Responses to Organizations file suit against Dept. of Energy—Where is public process?

  1. What possible environmental impact to residence can there be? First, we are only talking about low level nuclear by products. Furthermore, the material is contained before it arrives in Colorado and is contained after it leaves. Under any worst case scenario there will still be no harm to Colorado.

    Conejos County Clean Water Inc., the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety are nuisance groups. I would not be surprised if latter received most of their funding from the fossil fuel industry and trial lawyers. Seriously, can anyone name one tangible benefit has Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety ever bestowed upon society?

    What is clear is that this lawsuit needs to be dismissed without merit as quickly as possible. We have seen this tactic used before by the anti nuclear groups. In the 1970’s through the 90’s anti nuclear groups would tie up the long term capital meant for building new nuclear reactors with frivolous lawsuits. Though eventually all these lawsuits were dismissed without merit the anti nuclear groups were able to achieve there goal of tying up long term capital and thus making the building of new nuclear plants an impossibility.

    Now these same people and groups are trying to do the same with the reclamation of legacy waste sites. If these nut jobs get their way and are able to hold up projects expect the cost of these clean ups to escalate. Are we as nation really going to spend most of are money meant for the clean up of legacy waste on a bunch of lawyers?


    John Farmer
    November 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm

  2. Dear ‘John Farmer’,
    Thank you for your comments. Your perspective is appreciated, as well as stimulating the community dialogue.
    ~The Crestone Eagle

    Crestone Eagle Admin
    November 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm