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Montana Finalizes First Set Of Rules For Oil, Gas Waste Disposal

The State of Montana last week finalized its first set of comprehensive rules for disposal of oil and gas production waste.

The regulations for Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, or TENORM, went through several rounds of public comment and revision before it reached its final form June 26. 

The new rules include the TENORM waste limit of 50 picocuries per gram. The rules also set up new criteria for limiting worker exposure to radiation and made it necessary for a third party to monitor possible groundwater contamination instead of the facility itself.

Many public commenters in Montana said it was important that the state maintain the same radioactivity waste limit as North Dakota to prevent businesses in the Bakken from dumping their waste in Montana.

Waste and Underground Tank Management Bureau Chief Ed Thamke with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said that was input the DEQ listened to.

"What we really wanted to do is provide a level playing field. We didn’t want to create any incentives for ways to be transported across the border," Thamke said. 

TENORM is a byproduct of oil and gas operations like fracking. Every state defines and regulates it differently.

Up until now, Montana had maintained a radioactivity maximum of 50 picocuries per gram but had lacked comprehensive guidelines.

Oaks Disposal northwest of Glendive is the only facility in Montana currently accepting TENORM. 

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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