WQCC Remands LANL Discharge Permit Back to NMED

Citing the need for a “clean, unbiased decision without the appearance of impropriety,” the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission voted on Tuesday to reverse their decisions denying the motion of Communities for Clean Water to send the groundwater discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) back to the New Mexico Environment Department.  If this sounds confusing, it is.  Let us explain.

Since the fall of 2013, Communities for Clean Water (CCW) has been working with the Environment Department on a draft groundwater discharge permit for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL.  It is called Discharge Permit 1132, or DP-1132.

An overriding issue is the fact that the Environment Department cannot issue a discharge permit for this facility.  Because it handles hazardous waste, the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, and not the New Mexico Water Quality Act, must regulate it.  The hazardous waste laws and regulations are more protective of human health and the environment than the Water Quality Act, which exempts hazardous waste facilities from dual regulation.

As a result, before the April 2018, public hearing in Los Alamos about the discharge permit, CCW filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding.  Without explanation, the hearing officer ruled against CCW.  In post-hearing filings, CCW again argued for dismissal.  The hearing officer again, without explanation, ruled against CCW.

During this time, the hearing officer applied for a job with the Department of Energy at LANL.  Under the law, the hearing officer should have disqualified herself because she had a conflict of interest.  But she did not notify the parties to the hearing that she had applied for the job.  And she ruled on motions and submitted her report recommending permit approval to the Environment Department Secretary.  In late August, the Secretary approved the discharge permit.  In September, the hearing officer received a job offer from LANL and accepted the position.

In January, CCW learned that the hearing officer was working at LANL.  CCW filed a motion with the Commission to vacate the Secretary’s decision because of the appearance of impropriety of the hearing officer.  At both their April and May meetings, the Commission ruled against CCW and agreed their review of the permit.

In June, CCW filed a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico Supreme Court to require the Commission “to vacate decisions by the [ ] hearing officer who was disqualified to act and the [ ] Secretary’s decision based upon the invalid rulings and recommendations of that disqualified hearing officer.”  190606 CCW Petition for Mandamus 2019-06-06 The Supreme Court filed an Order request a response from the Commission.  It is due on or before July 2, 2019.  190614 DP-1132 37717 Order Requesting Response

At Tuesday’s special meeting where the Commission reconsidered its previous decisions, it also ordered the Environment Department to appoint a new hearing officer and to schedule a new hearing.

CCW is represented by Lindsay A. Lovejoy, Jr., http://lindsaylovejoy.com/ and Jon Block, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  https://nmelc.org/

1.    The New Mexico Environment Department public meeting about the Oversight Bureau will most likely take place the week of July 8th.  CCNS has been pushing for a Pojoaque or Espanola meeting location, but has received resistance that the meeting should take place in Los Alamos, “the most affected community.”

Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory

Ha!  Please contact the Environment Department Secretary at (505) 827-2855, or James.Kenney@state.nm.us.

2.    By coincidence, N3B, LANL’s Legacy Cleanup contractor, scheduled The Environmental Management Cleanup Forum:  Legacy Waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory public meeting for June 26, 2019 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Fuller Lodge, 2132 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, NM – the week the Environment Department wanted to have the Oversight Bureau meeting.

3.    Holtec Update:  Did you see the recent letters of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s letter and Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard expressing their opposition/concern about the proposed Holtec consolidated interim storage facility for 120,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste in southeast New Mexico from nuclear power plants across the country.  If not, they are available here.  NM Governor Holtec Ltr 060719  and  6.19.19 NM SLO Letter to Krishna P. Singh

4.    If you appreciate receiving the Update and information about the latest events and action alerts, please seriously consider signing up to provide a monthly contribution to CCNS at http://nuclearactive.org/  Thank you!


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