Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety Projects

CCNS continues to challenge bad decisions made by the Martinez Administration in court, such as allowing the illegal exemption for the LANL facility to continue its operation and the expansion of WIPP's capacity. Despite nearly 18 months of the Lujan Grisham Administration, these matters have yet to be resolved. The New Mexico Hazardous Waste Permit (HWPs) for both LANL and WIPP are up for renewal this year, providing excellent opportunities to raise these issues and to make changes so that the permits are more protective.

CCNS brought three citizen lawsuits. That's why I am writing you today. You have supported our work in the past. And I feel confident that when you read about what we're up against now, you'll want to do what you can to see our lawsuits through to success. They are:

LANL: CCNS v. U.S. EPA, U.S. DOE and Triad National Security, LLC in the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Case No. 18-9542. In 2016, CCNS challenged the federal Clean Water Act permit for Outfall 051 because LANL had not discharged from the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) since November 2010. This key facility supports plutonium pit (triggers) production for nuclear weapons. The Clean Water Act requires a permit for a discharge, but in this case there is none. We completed the EPA administrative challenges and went onto the Tenth Circuit of Appeals. Last month, the three-judge panel ruled CCNS did not have standing. Their decision endangers future efforts by CCNS to bring citizen suits against EPA and DOE. We have requested a rehearing by the original three-judge panel and the full panel of judges in the Tenth Circuit because the decision conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court decisions and creates conflicts within the Tenth Circuit and other Circuits.

Importantly, the Clean Water Act permit allows for an exemption from the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as implemented by the NM Hazardous Waste Act (HWA), for regulating the RLWTF. For decades, LANL has admitted the RLWTF handles, treats, and stores hazardous waste. Nevertheless, it has operated in complete disregard of the hazardous waste laws, which are more protective than the Clean Water Act. RCRA requires additional protections for the hazardous waste tanks, tank systems, and piping that are used to process and store the liquid waste. Seismic risks must also be carefully analyzed. RCRA also provides for enhanced public participation. CCNS is pursuing the case to ensure the nearly 60-year-old facility is kept as safe as possible and operates through RCRA permitting. 

WIPP: CCNS v. NMED in the NM Court of Appeals, Case No. A-1-CA-37894. In 2019, CCNS challenged the DOE's plan to gain 30% more space in WIPP by recalculating the volume of waste. During the public hearing process, CCNS raised civil rights violations. We argued that the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) did not comply with the requirements of a 2017 civil rights settlement between EPA and NMED. The NMED Secretary rejected our arguments; we appealed to the NM Court of Appeals. A docketing statement is due in late June. A positive decision would clarify the civil rights requirements and impact NMED public participation process.

LANL: CCNS v. NMED in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, Case No. 10-01251. In 2010, CCNS challenged the LANL HWP on three issues: no prohibition on open burning of hazardous waste; non-compliant groundwater protection; and the omission of closure plans for the Technical Area 54 dumps-- Areas G, H, and L. The closure plans would reveal what waste LANL plans to leave in the ground. CCNS participated in settlement negotiations. Nevertheless, we could not sign the settlement agreement between NMED and LANL that ignored CCNS's issues and put in place only limited public participation in cleanup decision. Despite the agreement, the case remains open until two matters are resolved. They are:

- A requirement that LANL submit a permit modification request to NMED, which they did in July 2017. NMED has not acted on it. Now the 10-year HWP is up for renewal and the permit renewal application is due in late June. Inevitably, it will include the negative settlement agreement terms that CCNS will challenge in the permitting processes; and

- The issuance of an NMED groundwater discharge permit (DP-1131) for the RLWTF. Two public hearings have occurred and the decision about whether to issue the permit is sitting on the NMED Secretary's desk. 

The intertwining of the LANL water and hazardous waste issues it complex. With the hazardous waste permits up for renewal, now is the time to challenge old assumptions and make positive changes to protect workers, the public, and the environment. 

CCNS has been working with our attorney for several years now. He is an excellent lawyer. He is familiar with the depth and breadth of these issues, having represented the State of New Mexico as an Assistant Attorney General of the initial hazardous waste permit for WIPP in 1998 and as a contract lawyer for NMED on the 2010 LANL HWP. He has been representing CCNS on the state RLWTF groundwater discharge permit and the appeal of the federal Clean Water Act permit. 

His bills are mounting, and we need your help to continue our legal challenges. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us via our website: www.nuclearactive.org.

Please support our efforts on GoFundMe, or use PayPal directly on our website at www.nuclearactive.org. Thank you!

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Organizer

Myrriah Gomez 
Organizer
Santa Fe, NM
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (Ccns) 
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