Western governors on water, CCR, and radioactive waste
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January 10, 2014
Western governors on water, CCR, and radioactive waste

At their 2013 winter meeting held in mid-December, governors of 22 Western states and U.S. territories issued four environmental or environment-related policy statements, which, on one hand, are mainly concerned with areas where the federal government should stay out of state affairs and, on the other, areas where the fed should provide the states with assistance as indicated in federal law. 

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Following are highlights from those policy statements:

  • Water quality.  The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should engage states in implementation of the Clean Water Act.  Also, the EPA should recognize state authority to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDL) that are tailored to the needs of Western states; not interfere with state management and protection of groundwater sources; not require NPDES permits for water transfers through constructed conveyances to supply beneficial uses; recognize state authority over nonpoint source pollution, particularly regarding forest roads and nutrient pollution; provide adequate support to states to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act standards; and also provide support to assist states in developing innovative technologies to monitor and assess water quality.
  • Coal combustion residuals.  In June 2010, the EPA proposed rules for the management of utility-generated coal combustion residuals (CCR) under both RCRA Subtitle C (hazardous waste) and RCRA Subtitle D (nonhazardous waste).  The governors’ policy is that federal regulation of CCR as hazardous waste would undercut existing and effective state regulatory authority, result in additional unwarranted regulatory programs, and add costly burdens to state budgets.
  • Storage and disposal of radioactive waste spent nuclear fuel (SNF).  Should a centralized interim-storage facility for these materials be found necessary, it should not be located within the geographic boundaries of a Western state or U.S. flag island without the written consent of the governor.  The governors support efforts by the federal government to examine alternative waste acceptance options, including, but not limited to, providing funds to utilities for expanded on-site storage.  Commercial SNF should remain at reactor sites until one or more storage and/or disposal sites are operational or reprocessing is deemed viable by an independent review.
  • Transportation of radioactive waste and radioactive materials.  The governors note that more than 90 percent of the existing inventory of defense-related transuranic waste (TRU) is located in Western states.  They also praise the transportation plan that has been implemented as part of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, which has resulted in approximately 10,483 shipments to the WIPP with “only a few minor incidents.”  Given that record, the governors believe that the WIPP Transportation Safety Program Implementation Guide is an excellent model for transportation planning, and a similar guide should be used as a base document for Department of Energy (DOE) transportation programs for shipments of SNF, high-level waste (HLW), and/or greater than Class C (GTCC) waste to any storage and/or disposal facility.  The governors state that it is the responsibility of the generators of SNF and HLW and the federal government, not the states and tribes, to pay for all costs associated with ensuring safe transportation, responding effectively to accidents and emergencies that may occur, and otherwise ensuring public health and safety.

All policy statements from the Western governors’ meeting

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