Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi and Representative Barbara Cubin said today they are pressing the Department of Energy to convene a promised hearing in Jackson on a proposed nuclear waste incinerator to be built in Idaho.
"Now that the draft permits are available the Department of Energy should move swiftly to convene a public hearing on the proposal in Wyoming as soon as possible," Wyoming's Congressional Delegation said in a joint statement. "Once set, the public needs to use this opportunity, seek the information and express their opinion for the record in a way they weren't afforded before."
Under an agreement Thomas worked out in August with Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will host and the Department of Energy will attend an official hearing in Wyoming on the proposed incinerator. The agencies agreed the official hearing would be scheduled once the required draft Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility and Toxic Substances Treatment Permits were issued.
The draft permits were issued November 8, 1999. The comment period is open for 90 days from that date.
Meanwhile, both Senators expressed optimism about their November 2 meeting with Richardson. The Senators pressed the department to actively explore options that would exclude incineration at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory so close to the Jackson community and national parks.
"The Secretary listened to our case and responded positively to our insistence that the department would explore all options and any alternatives," Thomas and Enzi said. "The meeting was productive, but we ended the conversation by making it clear that our concerns about the long-term health of the Jackson valley and the national parks that surround it haven't lessened."
Representative Cubin said she looks forward to the hearing and the chance for the public to obtain answers from DOE on some basic questions such as: How long is it possible to store the waste at INEEL before it becomes a threat to the environment? Would DOE be willing to invest in continuous air monitors in the Jackson area that local residents could check themselves? She said answers to these and other questions will provide the public with information they need to know.
Thomas said he has also pursued talks with Vice-President Gore and that discussions have already taken place.