Mission

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Our mission is to protect all living beings and the environment from the effects of radioactive and other hazardous materials now and in the future.

P.O. Box 31147
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87594

Telephone: (505) 986-1973
Fax: (505) 986-0997
Email: ccns@nuclearactive.org

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Current Activities

Kirtland Overstated Technical Conclusions about Jet Fuel Plume

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play3Kirtland Air Force Base recently admitted to Citizen Action New Mexico that it overstated “technical conclusions” about the forward movement of the jet fuel plume having been halted toward Albuquerque’s drinking water wells.  Citizen Action demanded to see the technical data that supported such a conclusion, but the Air Force and the New Mexico Environment Department could not provide it.  http://www.radfreenm.org/

Citizen Action New Mexico, a non-profit organization based in Albuquerque, has led the effort to address the toxic plume of ethylene dibromide (EDB) from the spill that has moved in the aquifer to less than a mile from Albuquerque’s most productive drinking water wells, located in the Ridge Crest neighborhood.

An estimated 24,000,000 gallons of aviation gas and jet fuel spilled for decades from the pipeline at Kirtland’s bulk fuel facility.  EDB was used as an anti-knock chemical in aviation gasoline.  It is very mobile and travels in groundwater.  EDB is one of the most toxic and carcinogenic chemicals on the planet in only parts per trillion. A half-teaspoon of EDB can contaminate 13,000,000 gallons of water.  A half-teaspoon of EDB was in every one of the millions of gallons of spilled aviation gas.  http://www.envirotools.msu.edu/factsheets/contaminants/EDB.shtml

As an interim cleanup measure, Kirtland has been using a pump and treat extraction technology.  From the 106,000,000 gallons that have been pumped from the aquifer by the three extraction wells, only about 9 teaspoons of EDB has been removed.  Kirtland proposes to install a fourth extraction well this winter, however, where to put the treated water is a problem without an answer.

Kirtland has scheduled a public meeting and workshop in Albuquerque for the jet fuel spill for Veterans’ Day weekend.  The public meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday, November 10th at the African American Performing Arts Center, located at 310 San Pedro Northeast from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.  The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, November 12th at the Christ United Methodist Church, located at 2600 Gibson Southeast from 9 am to 1 pm.  For more information, please go to Kirtland’s project specific website at http://www.kirtlandjetfuelremediation.com/girl_drinking-water-png

Dave McCoy, Executive Director of Citizen Action New Mexico, said, “A petition to create a public Remediation Advisory Board was filed many months ago with Kirtland.  Kirtland officials seem to oppose a public advisory board and the choice of the meeting time at the Veteran’s holiday seems designed to reduce public attendance.  So far the public has been excluded from any ongoing technical meetings and timely information about the jet fuel spill.  Kirtland has rejected calls for independent oversight of the jet fuel spill that were made by the New Mexico legislature in 2014.” https://nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?Chamber=S&LegType=M&LegNo=42&year=14

 

Two Saturday, October 1st Peaceful Demonstrations to Support Trinity Downwinders at Entrances to White Sands Missile Range

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play3The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium is organizing peaceful demonstrations for Saturday, October 1st at two of the White Sands Missile Range entrances to support those who have been negatively affected by radiation exposure from the July 16, 1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test.  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-admin/upload.php?item=1315  The White Sands Missile Range holds an open house twice a year for the public to view the site of the Trinity Test.  http://www.wsmr.army.mil/PAO/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx  The Consortium will be at the Stallion Range Station and the Tularosa Gate.

On July 16, 1945, just before dawn, the U.S. government conducted the first test explosion of a nuclear device in the Tularosa Basin in south central New Mexico at the White Sands Army base.  Without warning, the 40,000 people living in the immediate vicinity were engulfed in a radioactive cloud that continued to rain down radioactive particles for days.

After the test, the U.S. Government packed their bags, turned their backs and walked away. For 71 years the U.S. Government has taken no responsibility for the health repercussions to the People.  The cancer rates in the four counties surrounding the Trinity Site are four to eight times higher than the national rates.

The Consortium has been working for 11 years to expand the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to provide medical care and compensation to the People of New Mexico, and particularly to the Trinity Downwinders.  The fund has paid out over $2 billion in claims thus far to the downwinders of the Nevada Test Site, and more importantly, has provided lifetime health care coverage, with no co-payments, no deductibles and no premiums to those affected.  Proposed RECA amendments include the Trinity Downwinders.  See Senate Bill 331 https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/331?q={%22search%22%3A[%22\%22s331\%22%22]}&resultIndex=1 and House Bill 994 at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/994?q={%22search%22%3A[%22\%22hr994\%22%22]}&resultIndex=1

Beginning at 7:30 am on Saturday, October 1st, Consortium members will gather at the Tularosa Gate in Tularosa. 1-jpg

Beginning at 9 am, Consortium members will gather at the Stallion Range Station entrance, located on Hwy. 380 just east of San Antonio.

You are cordially invited to join the Consortium in the peaceful demonstrations.  Please bring your own water, chair and poster. Please see this flyer for more details – october-1-poster-1

Tina Cordova, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said, “As we once again demonstrate at the Trinity Site open house we reflect on all that we’ve lost to the test that was conducted there.  We continue to count our loved ones as we place them in the ground and wonder when is our government going to come back and right this horrific wrong.  We intend to hold the next U.S. Congress that will be elected shortly responsible for this injustice.”

For more information, please contact Tina Cordova at tcordova@queston.net   or call her at 505-897-6787.  http://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

 

New Mexico Approves Land Purchase for Proposed High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Facility

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play3The New Mexico State Board of Finance approved the sale of 1,000 acres by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) to Holtec International for a possible consolidated storage facility for much of the nation’s commercial spent high-level radioactive waste fuel generated in nuclear power plants.  The Board of Finance approval to sell the site to Holtec by July 31, 2017 is contingent upon an appraisal and other matters.  See Agenda Item 14, p. 2 at http://www.nmdfa.state.nm.us/uploads/files/Board%20of%20Finance/2016/July/7_19_16%20Actions%20Corrected.pdf

The site is located in Lea County, midway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, on Highway 62.  The site is now owned by the Alliance, a limited liability corporation composed of the Lea County Commission, Hobbs City Council, Eddy County Commission, and Carlsbad City Council.  In 2006, the Alliance proposed the site for nuclear fuel reprocessing, which never occurred because it is not economically viable and creates large amounts of waste.  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Plans-announced-for-New-Mexico-used-fuel-store-3004154.html

In a September 13, 2016 release, Holtec stated, “The Holtec-ELEA Team has tremendous State and local support and consent.”  http://www.holtecinternational.com/2016/09/strong-support-for-the-hi-store-consolidated-interim-storage-facility-in-new-mexico/  The company has delayed the submission of its license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until sometime in 2017.  The details of its plans will not be known until the application is made public.

Nevertheless, bringing waste to the privately owned site cannot happen without Congress substantially changing the 35-year-old Nuclear Waste Policy Act and providing billions of dollars to pay for the site’s operations and transportation of thousands of railcar loads of waste from across the nation.

In May 2015, when the Alliance and Holtec announced that they planned to build the storage facility, New Mexico U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich opposed the proposal.  Senator Udall stated, “Several aspects of this proposal concern me.  No matter where it’s built, I will not support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal [of the waste].”  http://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1947

Senator Heinrich agreed and said, “But we can’t put the cart before the horse.”  http://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1947 photo-2-1000x563

There is strong local and statewide opposition to the plan. Noel Marquez, of Artesia, expressed his concern, “As a citizen of Eddy County who does Not Consent to bringing the waste to our region, I am extremely disappointed to see my community expressing No Consent rendered invisible and our beautiful lands proposed as a permanent Wasteland for the Nuclear Industry.”

A resident of Hobbs, Mena Ramos, said, “I’m not well informed on that but it is scary to know that that is coming to our town.”

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, stated, “The large majority of New Mexicans, like people in other states, do not support consolidated storage. The nuclear utilities must provide safe storage for their waste at their sites.”  http://www.sric.org/

 

NMED Holding Listening Sessions in Las Cruces and Albuquerque about Proposed Changes to State’s Water Protection Regulations

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play3The New Mexico Environment Department is attempting to eviscerate the public participation requirements provided in the New Mexico Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations.  Reducing public participation is clearly the goal of the Martinez administration.  One glaring example is found in a document entitled, “Hit [L]ist for Regulation Changes,” which was released by the Department following an Inspection of Public Record Request made by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  Number One on the Hit List, created last November by the Department’s Ground Water Quality Bureau, is to “figure how to further reduce [public notice and participation requirement] efforts.”  GWQB HIT LIST FOR REGULATION CHANGES

This summer the Department released its initial draft changes to the regulations for public review and comment.  In August, CCNS, other non-governmental organizations and individuals submitted extensive comments to the Department.  20160817-ccns-20-6-2-nmac-comments

This week the Department announced that it would host two listening sessions, one in Las Cruces and one in Albuquerque, about their proposed revisions.  The Department is working to host additional sessions in Farmington and Roswell.  https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/

The New Mexico Water Quality Act requires that if a person or entity wants to discharge a pollutant into water, they are required to obtain a discharge permit from the Department.  The regulatory process requires opportunities for public review and comment of the draft permit and an opportunity to request a public hearing.  Once issued, permits may be modified and are renewed every five years, both of which require additional public participation.

In order to change the regulations, the Department is required by state law to present the proposed revisions to the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission.  Inevitably, there will be a public hearing before the Commission about the proposed changes next spring.

In the next week or two, the Department plans to post revised regulations on its website and to open a public comment period prior to submitting the final proposed changes to the Water Quality Control Commission.

The first listening session is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20th in Las Cruces at the New Mexico State University, Environmental Health and Safety Office, the Academic Research C, Room 110, located at 1620 Standley Drive, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

The second listening session is scheduled for Thursday, September 22nd in Albuquerque, at the Erna Fergusson Library meeting room, located at 3700 San Mateo Northeast, again from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “If you are concerned about water, please attend one or more of the Department’s listening sessions and let your voice be heard.”

If you would like to receive updates about the Department’s process, please contact Steve Huddleson, manager of the Pollution Prevention Section of the Ground Water Quality Bureau, at (505) 827- 2936 or Steven.Huddleson@state.nm.us.  In the alternative, you may sign up to received “General News” from the Ground Water Quality Bureau at https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/#GWQBnews (bottom of page).

 

N.M. Nuclear Safety Group Blasts Results of Government Reports

grview-53783-1N M Nuclear Safety Group Blasts Results of Government Reports / Public News Service

August 29. 2016

Nuclear safety advocates are speaking out after a series of audit reports show cost overruns and delays at New Mexico nuclear labs. (Geralt/Pixabay)

SANTA FE, N.M. — A local nuclear safety group is speaking out after four government reports released in August on the country’s nuclear stockpile show management issues, delays and cost overruns at eight labs across the country, including two in New Mexico.

The audit reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Energy’s Inspector General were part of a program which will spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Joni Arends, executive director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety in Santa Fe, questioned the need for such a massive investment in nuclear technology.

“The Department of Energy and its contractors want to move forward with programs that will provide profit to the private corporations that run the Department of Energy sites such as Los Alamos National Laboratory or Lockheed Martin at Sandia National Laboratory,” Arends said.

According to the Department of Energy, the upgrades are necessary to make the weapons more precise at varying altitudes.

But there is a movement at the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons, Arends said, and the money would be much better spent elsewhere.

“The Department of Energy should be using this money to clean up these dumps,” she said, “to store the waste in buildings where it can be monitored rather than having it disposed in unlined dumps threatening our water supplies in New Mexico.”

Arends is spearheading a campaign encouraging voters to write to their representatives and ask them to put a halt to these projects until management problems are corrected.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM
 

DOE Exposed for Secretly Funding Front Group to Weaken Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

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play3The truth was revealed at an August 17th, 2016 public meeting that the Department of Energy (DOE) provided a secret $34,000 grant to the Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a front group created to breach the DOE’s cleanup agreement for the contaminated nuclear reactor research and rocket test facility located on 2,850 acres in the California hills above the San Fernando and Simi Valleys in Ventura County.  20160831 Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition Press Release and 20160829 PSR-LA to DOE Regalbuto CIF Scandal The Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Boeing Corporation own the facility.  Elevated cancer rates have been found in neighboring communities. http://www.rocketdynecleanupcoalition.org/ssfl-cleanup-frequently-asked-questions/

For more than 20 years, the effective Santa Susana Field Laboratory Work Group met monthly and included representatives from Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles.  http://www.psr-la.org/issues/peace-and-security/cleaning-up-the-santa-susana-field-laboratory/ They developed expertise about the contamination, pathways for exposure, elevated cancer rates, and cleanup.  They educated their elected officials who then took action.  Julia_Brownley_Linda_Adams_March_9_of_2009

In the late 1990s, as part of a national settlement with community groups about cleanup at its sites, DOE established an independent funding mechanism to provide technical grants to non-profit organizations working on cleanup.  http://www2.clarku.edu/research/kaspersonlibrary/mtafund/ In its latest iteration, a five-year, $5 million dollar fund, called the Community Involvement Fund, or CIF, was established and was independently administered by the New Mexico Community Foundation.  http://cif.nmcf.org/about/ In August 2015, DOE abruptly stopped funding the CIF, after providing less than $2 million.

At the same time, DOE secretly provided a $34,000 “no strings” grant to the new front group, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Community Advisory Group, comprised of officials of DOE and its contractors.  The funding was apparently secret so that U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a proponent of the cleanup, would not challenge the grant.

At the recent August 17th, 2016 meeting, Community Advisory Group member Alec Uzemeck revealed that DOE would soon release a report with a list of grants, and “DOE is the one that made the grant for us.  They are the one who supplied the funding.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3XlYNdVPIo&feature=youtu.be&t=1m35s

Renee Villarreal, Director of Programs and Community Outreach for the New Mexico Community Foundation, was disappointed to hear the news from one of their grantee partners about this discovery.  She said, “Nontransparent funding decisions by DOE and lack of accountability for cleanup was specifically the reason why the CIF program was created in the first place.”

Villarreal continued, “It’s frustrating to learn that while [the New Mexico Community Foundation] was trying to get the CIF funding reinstated that was anticipated for the last year of the program, there was funding going to a group that is essentially undermining the cleanup commitment at Santa Susana.  It is obvious that DOE funding mechanisms are not transparent, and this kind of activity sends a clear message to communities dealing with legacy waste contamination, that DOE is not prioritizing their health and safety”.


DISCLOSURE:  CCNS received funding in 2003, 2004 and 2007 to produce the following reports, which are available at:  http://www2.clarku.edu/research/kaspersonlibrary/mtafund/in

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS)

Santa Fe, NM

Round 1

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6 – Grant Received by Amigos Bravos, Taos, NM

 

DOE Inspector General Finds Project Management Problems for Nuclear Weapons Life Extension Programs

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play3In the fourth report released this month about documented problems with schedule, cost and risk management at the Department of Energy (DOE) sites in New Mexico, the latest addresses on-going management problems with the estimated $8.1 billion, high risk Life Extension Program for the Model B61-12 nuclear weapon.  See, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audits and Inspections, August 18, 2016 AUDIT REPORT:  National Nuclear Security Administration’s Management of the B61-12 Life Extension Program, DOE-OIG-16-15, http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-15; Government Accountability Office (GAO) August 11, 2016 Report to Congressional Committees:  NUCLEAR SUPPLY CHAIN:  DOE Should Assess Circumstances for Using Enhanced Procurement Authority to Manage Risk, GAO-16-710, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-710; GAO August 9, 2016 Report to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate:  DOE PROJECT MANAGEMENT:  NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos, GAO-16-585,  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-585;  and GAO August 4, 2016 Report to Congressional Committees:  NUCLEAR WASTE:  Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Recovery Demonstrates Cost and Schedule Requirements Needed for DOE Cleanup Operations, GAO-16-608, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-608.

The DOE Inspector General audited work being done at eight DOE facilities across the country with a focus on design facilities at Sandia National Laboratory, in Albuquerque, and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  DOE expects the first life extended B61-12 nuclear weapon to be completed by March 2020.

The B61-12 Life Extension Program is a consolidated process for the replacement of nuclear and non-nuclear parts, such as detonator cables, to extend the life of this weapon for 20 years.  During this phase, the program involves designing new parts before an engineering phase leading to the first production phase.  New military capabilities, such as improved accuracy and the ability to change the height of the detonation, are being incorporated into the design.  http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-15, p. 9.

Project management includes maintaining a detailed master schedule for all tasks being done across the country.  The master schedule should ensure that the project comes in on time and on cost.  Further, each site has its own schedule.  Under project management requirements, both schedules should align.

The auditors found that in some cases the schedules did not align.  For example, the auditors found a 17-month discrepancy between the master schedule and the LANL schedule for qualification of a primary main charge used in the nuclear explosive package.  http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-15, p. 4.  The auditors also found discrepancies of 100 working days or more between the two schedules in 24 percent of the cases for components to be developed at Sandia and LANL.  http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-15, p. 4.

Problems identifying risk to the cost, schedule and performance of the B61-12 and efforts to mitigate the risk were also highlighted.  Both the risks and the mitigation measures should be included in both schedules.  For example, testing newly designed components in flight tests and in extreme hot and cold thermal environments would mitigate the risk of the component failure.  The auditors found that 75 percent of the high to moderate risks identified at Sandia and LANL were not linked to the mitigation actions in the schedule.  http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-15, p. 8 – 9.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “This is the fourth critical Untitled-313report released this month about basic DOE project management problems for high-risk projects in New Mexico that cost astronomical amounts of taxpayer money.  Please contact your congressional members and ask them to look seriously at these problems and put a halt to these projects until project management problems are corrected.”

 

GAO: DOE Did Not Learn Lessons from Previous CMRR Cost Estimates

Changes to accommodate higher levels of plutonium at LANL's  Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building are part of plans to replace the lab's 1952 plutonium facility. (COURTESY LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY) moswald@abqjournal.com Thu Aug 11 15:29:07 -0600 2016 1470950947 FILENAME: 216708.jpg

play3A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reveals that the Department of Energy (DOE), and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, did not learn the lessons about providing accurate cost estimates for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-585  In 2005, the federal agencies estimated the CMRR Project to cost $975 million, with a completion date of 2017.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 3.  Yet recent estimates indicate that design, construction and equipment for the Radiological Laboratory, Office and Utility Building (RLUOB) and the proposed Wal-Mart sized Nuclear Facility would have cost approximately $7 billion, $1 billion more than previously disclosed.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 27.

The report was submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on August 9, 2016, the 71st commemoration of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

DOE built the RLUOB at a cost of about $400 million and in 2014, began operations.  In August 2014, DOE canceled plans to construct the Nuclear Facility because of the cost increases, including the growing knowledge of the seismic dangers on the Pajarito Plateau, where LANL is located.  Robert H. Gilkeson, an independent registered geologist, worked for years to bring attention to the seismic issues.  For example, see the Gilkeson and CCNS November 9, 2011 report, Deficiencies in Knowledge of Seismic Hazard for Proposed $6 Billion Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory Need for Field Studies and a New Environmental Impact Statement, with four detailed figuresf CMRR Seismic FS 11-09-11.  An estimated $500 million would be needed to make the seismic design changes.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf p. 4, footnote 9.

LANL is the only facility in the DOE’s nuclear weapons complex for manufacture of plutonium pits, or triggers, for nuclear weapons at the Plutonium Facility, or PF-4.  As part of the “modernization” of the nuclear weapons complex and at the direction of the Department of Defense and itself, DOE is charged with manufacturing 50 to 80 pits per year by 2030.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 2, footnote 6.

After the Nuclear Facility was canceled, DOE adopted a new plutonium strategy, called the “Revised CMRR Project,” to use PF-4 and the RLUOB for pit production.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, beginning on p. 4.

The GAO report discloses that, “[DOE] will develop the capability to produce at Los Alamos an increasing number of new pits over time.  These pits will be of a different type than the pits produced earlier, so Los Alamos has started a development process to establish a pit production capability for a new pit type.”  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10.  In 2013, DOE “developed multiple experimental pits for life extension programs,” a program estimated to cost $13 billion for one warhead, the Interoperable Warhead-1.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10, footnote 21.  Soon thereafter, LANL “paused pit production and other operations … because of nuclear criticality safety concerns.” http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10, footnote 22.

Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, stated, “Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is not needed to maintain stockpile safety and reliability, but instead is a must for nuclear weaponeers who want to give existing weapons new military capabilities through so-called Life Extension Programs.  This GAO report is more evidence of how taxpayers’ money could be far better spent than on poorly planned, unnecessary and very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.”  http://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NWNM_Pit_Production_PR-8-10-16.pdf

 

Annihilating Public Participation Ranks No. 1 on the Ground Water Quality Bureau’s “Hit List for Regulation Changes”

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play3Attempting to annihilate public participation in surface and ground water permitting processes, last November, the Ground Water Quality Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department put together a top ten “Hit [L]ist for Regulation Changes” to eviscerate the public’s due process rights.  GWQB HIT LIST FOR REGULATION CHANGES Hit List No. 1 reveals that the Environment Department wants to “figure how to further reduce [public notice and participation requirements] efforts.”

In June, the Department followed up with proposed changes to New Mexico’s water protection standards found in New Mexico Administrative Code Title 20, Chapter 6, Part 2 (20.6.2 NMAC) [https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/#GWQBnews] that are now out for public review and comment.  Public comments are due to the Environment Department by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 to NMENV.GWQBrulerev@state.nm.us.  Sample public comments are available at http://www.nuclearactive.org.- Sample Comment Ltr Water Stds 8-12-16

The Hit List was revealed to the public through an Inspection of Public Records request filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  In addition to the Hit List, the Department released internal emails about proposed changes to the list of chemical and organic pollutants; research done to learn about the permit fees charged to polluters in neighboring states, and suggested regulatory language changes.

The New Mexico Water Quality Act requires that if a person wants to discharge a pollutant into water, they must obtain a permit by going through a process requiring public participation and opportunity for a public hearing.  Once issued, permits may be modified and are renewed every five years, both of which require public participation.

The Hit List asks, “Can we make a simple renewal if nothing changes -– just a formal letter indicating such instead of reapplying?”  The Water Quality Act requires public participation.  The Environment Department does not have the authority to issue a formal letter as a substitute for the permit renewal process.

The Environment Department is also proposing a definition for a new process, called a “discharge permit amendment,” that omits public participation processes.   Further, the Water Quality Act does not give the Department the authority to amend a discharge permit, only to modify or renew a permit.

Another Hit List item is about permit variances.  If a polluter cannot meet the water quality standards, they may ask for a variance from the Water Quality Control Commission, a commission created by the Water Quality Act.  The Commission may grant a variance, but not for more than five years.  There are public participation requirements for this process.  The Environment Department’s Hit List reveals that it wants to “remove the [five] year period of approval for variances – make the[m] for the life of the facility upon approval by the Department,” not the Commission.  The proposed changes would allow variances in perpetuity.

Further, the Hit List reveals that the Environment Department proposes to “[r]eview them internally every [five] years.”  A polluter would no longer be required to go before the Commission every five years to renew its variance – something that the Commission discourages.  They want the discharger to meet the water quality protection standards.  Further, the Department omits any criteria for its internal review.

Jon Block, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said, “The Law Center shares many other organizations’ concerns over New Mexico’s environment and maintaining robust public participation in environmental decision-making.  NMED appears to be trying to curtail public participation in the decision-making process. We need to work together to oppose such changes to New Mexico ground water and surface water regulations in order to prevent that from happening.”  http://www.nmenvirolaw.org/ and for their analysis, go to: http://nmenvirolaw.org/site/more/cut_public_out_of_water_pollution_decisions

View the New Mexico Environment Department Proposed Revisions to state Surface and Ground Water Protection Regulations here – water_regs_infographic  Public Comments Due August 17, 2016

 

Public Comments due about WIPP and Triassic Park Hazardous Waste Permits

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play3The Hazardous Waste Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department has released documents for public review and comment about the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and the yet-to-be-built Triassic Park Waste Disposal Facility, both located in southeastern New Mexico.  CCNS and our colleagues have prepared sample public comments for you to use and are available at http://nuclearactive.org/.  Simply download, fill in the yellow areas, modify, copy and paste into an email, and hit “send.”

The first document is about the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) proposed modifications to the WIPP permit to update the contingency plan following the truck fire and explosion in February 2014, and reduce the amount of ventilation flow currently required when workers are emplacing waste in the mine.  Public Notice at http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/rfc/Public_Notice.pdf and Permit Modification Request at https://www.env.nm.gov/wipp/documents/160603.pdf

DOE is proposing to reduce the ventilation flow to below 35,000 standard cubic feet per minute, which is the minimum amount established to protect workers from exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the waste drums.  DOE says the modification is necessary in order to re-open WIPP by the end of the year.  DOE says they need the “flexibility” to reduce the flow so that they would not have to suspend waste disposal operations if the VOC levels rise above established levels.  Workers then would have to work in personnel protective equipment with respirators once the ventilation flow is reduced.

Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Monday, August 8th, 2016.  To download a sample public comment, please go to:  WIPP-Sample-Public-Comment-8-4-16 and email to Ricardo.Maestas@state.nm.us

The second document is a draft permit for the construction and operation of a 35-acre landfill at the Triassic Park Hazardous Waste Facility, located on 480 acres of privately owned land between Roswell and Tatum in Chaves County, south of Highway 380.  Gandy Marley, Inc. is the owner of Triassic Park.  In 2002, they received a hazardous waste permit from the Environment Department for not only the landfill, but for facilities for storage and treatment of waste.  Although the facility was not built, they are now proposing to build a 553,200 cubic yard landfill for U.S. generated waste, waste generated in foreign countries, and waste generated on-site for disposal.  https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/tpperm.htmlbasin3

Following the public hearing in 2001, the community participants filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in the Environment Department’s permit proceedings.  EPA has yet to make a determination.  Last summer, the community participants, four other non-governmental organizations and one individual filed a lawsuit against EPA to get action on their long-standing discrimination complaints.  For more information, please visit http://sacredtrustnm.org/, http://sacredtrustnm.org/nmed-the-triassic-park-permit-just-as-bad-as-the-first-time/, http://sacredtrustnm.org/thirteen-years-counting-southeast-new-mexico-civil-rights-and-the-epa/ and http://nuclearactive.org/card-civil-rights-complaint-to-epa-about-triassic-park-thirteen-years-and-no-resolution/

Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Sunday, August 14th, 2016.  To download a sample public comment, please go to:  Triassic-Park-Sample-Public-Comment-8-4-16-2 and email to Dave.Cobrain@state.nm.us.  NOTE: Additional sample comments will be available next week