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Montana Council Delays Radioactive Waste Disposal Rules

The Bureau of Land Management last week announced an increase to drilling permit fees on public lands.
Amy R. Sisk
Montana Public Radio
The Bureau of Land Management last week announced an increase to drilling permit fees on public lands.

A Montana legislative interim committee voted Apr. 27 to delay part of a controversial rule that sets guidelines for disposing radioactive oil waste.

Republican Senator Mike Lang of Malta requested the Montana Environmental Quality Council meeting over his concern that the state didn’t offer enough opportunity for public comment on new rules for disposing Technologically-Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, or TENORM.

He said the state Department of Environmental Quality should have held a public hearing after it redrafted TENORM disposal regulations in January.

“I said well that just seems peculiar to me, and let’s investigate," Lang told the council.

These drafted regulations would be part of Montana’s first statewide regulatory guidelines for TENORM. It’s been a highly disputed, years-long process.

DEQ in 2019 proposed a gate limit of 200 picocuries per gram of radioactivity. The new draft released earlier this year lowers the maximum down to 50 picocuries and eliminates a rolling average of 50 picocuries.

DEQ said it’s been reviewing public comments and would have issued a final rule in May.

The Environmental Quality Council’s 10-6 vote to informally object to the drafted regulations triggers a six month delay.

The council will have to vote at its meeting in May to renew the informal objection for it to remain in effect.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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