Appeal Filed Against NMED Approval of the New Shaft at WIPP

On October 27th, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney granted the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, the latest approval they requested to expand the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and keep it open for decades, essentially forever.  The Secretary approved the excavation and operation of new Shaft No. 5 and its drifts, or corridors, all located west of the existing underground disposal site, 2,150 feet below the surface.  See October 27, 2021 entries at

Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) and Cynthia Weehler have now appealed that Final Decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. They are asking the Court to overturn the decision because of many factual and legal mistakes made by the Hearing Officer, all of which were approved without change. For example, the Secretary’s decision stated that the new shaft will restore the ventilation system to full operations. However, a permit change in 2018, which did not include the new shaft, would provide that ventilation.

SRIC has also asked the Secretary to put construction of the new shaft on hold until the Court can rule on the appeal. That is because if the shaft is constructed, the Court will not be able to hear the case and make a decision to prevent the construction. The Secretary can approve or deny the stay or take no action.  His decision on the stay can also be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The stay request was supported by three affidavits. One was from Steve Zappe, who was the Environment Department WIPP Permit writer for 17 years. Mr. Zappe’s affidavit stressed that under the Environment Department’s 2020 permission, construction on the new shaft was specifically conditioned on it being reversed, if it was not ultimately approved. Construction was stopped in October 2020. But if the construction resumed, there would be no such requirement that it could be reversed.

Kathleen Sanchez and Cynthia Weehler also gave affidavits. Ms. Sanchez stated that her Tewa Pueblo land is on the WIPP shipment route from Los Alamos to WIPP. She strongly opposes WIPP expansion, and the hundreds of new shipments that would endanger her. No Tewa translation services were provided during the shaft hearing and her comments were not considered.

Cynthia Weehler lives on U.S. 285 near Santa Fe on the WIPP route. She purchased her home knowing the WIPP Permit stated that the last WIPP shipments would be in 2024. However, the new shaft and WIPP expansion will keep WIPP open for decades beyond that date and endanger her. Similarly, her comments were not considered in the Secretary’s decision.


  1. Please give as generously as you are able to CCNS. We really need your financial support. We’re carrying a heavy load to push for the draft hazardous waste permits for WIPP and LANL to be released by the NM Environment Department for public review and comment.  Thank you for your continuing support!


  1. This weekend: Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), on Report from Santa Fe, with Lorene Mills.  It will be aired throughout NM:
  • Saturday night, November 20, 2021, 6:00 p.m. for the entire east side of the state, on Channel 3, KENW-TV, the PBS station in Portales.
  • STATEWIDE the DISH-TV network also airs it on Channel 3 at this time.
  • Sunday morning, November 21, 8:00 a.m. for Las Cruces and the Southern part of the State, on KRWG-TV, the PBS station in Las Cruces, Channel 22.
  • Sunday morning, November 21, 8:00 a.m. for Albuquerque and Santa Fe and all of Northern New Mexico, on Channel 5, KNME-TV, the PBS station in Albuquerque.
  • Sunday afternoon, November 21, 4:30 pm Channel 5.4 for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Northern NM (Ch.5.4 over the air, can also be seen on Comcast Cable Ch. 204).
  • The interview will be heard on the radio on Monday morning, November 22, at 9:30 a.m. KANW-FM, 89.1 over the air and streaming online.


  1. Nov. 21st at 8 pm ET, 6 pm MT, 5 pm PT – In the Dark of the Valley documentary about the “cleanup” and on-going community health issues related to the DOE/NASA/Boeing Santa Susana Field Laboratory, near Simi Valley, CA.

In addition, the film can be viewed at any time via:

  • NBC’s website – you can log-in with your TV/Cable provider info or click “sign up”
  • The MSNBC app – Again, you’ll need to log-in with your TV/Cable provider info. The MSNBC Apple app can be downloaded here, Android via Amazon here
  • Hulu (only the pricier Hulu + Live TV package) – if you don’t have Hulu or the Hulu + Live TV package, you can sign up for a free 7 day trial
  • It can also be viewed via the Spectrum, going to On Demand, then MSNBC.  It may also apply on Roku, Fubo, and similar streaming services that offer access to cable channels.


  1. Nov. 22nd from 10 am – noon – Virtual Public Meeting – Weather Modification Application for License by Western Weather Consultants, LLC
    Proposed project – Two to two and a half month cloud seeding project proposed to start in December, 2021

Please register for PUBLIC MEETING – Weather Modification Application for License by Western Weather Consultants, LLC Proposed project – on Nov 22, 2021 10:00 AM MST to Noon at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.  Please note, if you prefer to use your phone, you must select “Use Telephone” after joining the webinar and call in using the numbers below.
United States: +1 (213) 929-4212
Access Code: 455-042-101
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

For more information:


  1. Tues. Nov. 30th from 2 to 4 pm MT – EPA Individual Stormwater Permit for LANL required virtual public meeting. The meeting agenda includes:  an update from Communities for Clean Water; updates on Individual Permit and copper site-specific water quality criteria; monitoring year 2021 sample results; control measure construction update; and questions and answers.  Links to meeting available at: and



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


No comments so far.

  • Leave a Reply
    Your gravatar
    Your Name