Morning Briefing - January 14, 2019
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January 14, 2019

Udall Reportedly Urging New Mexico to Take Fresh Look at WIPP Decision

By ExchangeMonitor

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) hopes the new administration of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) will review a decision made in late December by the state environmental agency on waste-disposal accounting at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday.

Udall urged New Mexico Environment Department Secretary-Designate James Kenney to review the Dec. 21 order from then-Secretary Butch Tongate, revising the way transuranic waste volume is recorded for disposal at WIPP under its state hazardous waste permit. Starting later this month, DOE will no longer record filler material or empty spaces between container drums as waste.

The Tongate order adopted the recommendations of state Hearing Officer Max Shepherd. The hearing officer had recommended waste volume counted against the disposal cap set by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act should cover only the actual transuranic waste inside containers.

This accounting change would reduce WIPP from roughly half full to one-third full.

“I am encouraging the new administration to take a hard look at this action, and hopeful that it will pause and reconsider this last-minute change that has major ramifications for our state,” Udall said in the article.

Kenney, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manager, has yet to say if he would take a fresh look at the change, currently scheduled to take effect Jan. 20.