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The Bush administration's environmental record: Toxic Waste disposal

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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February 2004

       The Department of Energy (DOE) says it will not request $350 million that the agency is supposed to use for the disposal of more than 85 million gallons of “high-level” radioactive waste unless Congress and state governments agree to downgrade the classification for some of the waste to “low-level” so that it can be disposed of using a less costly method that it estimates will save $29 billion. The DOE claims that some of the waste has a low enough level of radioactivity that the waste can simply be covered with concrete and left in place. But in July 2003, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the Energy Department's plan was illegal and that the agency was bound to the nuclear waste law, which states that liquid nuclear fuel reprocessing waste is “high-level” and needs to be buried in a permanent geological storage facility. The waste, left over from Cold War armament projects, includes 53 million gallons at the DOE's Hanford site near Richland, Washington; 34 million gallons at its Savannah River site near Aiken, South Carolina; and 900,000 gallons at its INEEL facility in Idaho. Additionally, there are 600,000 gallons of waste from a short-lived civilian reprocessing program near West Valley, New York. [New York Times, 5/30/2004; Associated Press, 2/26/2004; Associated Press, 4/8/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] A lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Geoffrey Fettus, warns that the Energy Department's plan would in effect create “nuclear cesspools” at the weapons plants and the Savannah River plant would become the most polluted nuclear site on the planet. [New York Times, 5/30/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Department of Energy (DOE)
          

March 16, 2004

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) an exemption from federal restrictions on land disposal of hazardous waste for two commercial Class 1 injection wells in Romulus, Michigan. It is estimated that each year, the wells will inject roughly 100 million gallons of liquid industrial waste—including chemicals like methanol, acetone and ammonia —into sponge-like rock located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. EPA officials claim that “the waste will stay confined to a layer of rock deep underground and will not threaten human health or the environment.” Local residents and state officials strongly oppose the plan, against which they have been fighting for more than a decade. [Environmental Protection Agency, 3/17/2004; Detroit Free Press, 3/17/2004; Capitol Reports, 3/19/2004; Ecology Center, 12/1999; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Disposal Systems, Bush administration
          

April 19, 2004

       The attorneys general of 39 states ask Congress to turn down a Defense Department request for exemptions from environmental laws (see April 6, 2004). Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar argues that there is no evidence that the proposed exemptions would facilitate training or improve military readiness, as the military claims. Salazar notes that existing laws allow the Pentagon to apply for waivers from the laws, adding that if Congress grants the exemptions, it could limit states' ability to conduct investigations and oversee clean-ups of munitions-related contamination on 24 million acres of military lands. [CBS News, 4/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Ken Salazar
          


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