Williams County Commissioners approved a TENORM amendment for both WISCO’s and Secure Energy’s special waste landfills Tuesday morning.
The votes to approve the two TENORM amendments overrode Williams County Planning and Zoning’s recommendation to deny the permit. Round Prairie Township had also recommended denial of the WISCO permit, while Blacktail had recommended approval.
The WISCO permit was approved on a vote of 3 to 2, with Commissioners Barry Ramberg and Beau Anderson voting against.
Reps. David Richter and Patrick Hatlestad were among those making comments for the public record. Hatlestad said he respected the difficulty of the decision before Williams County Commissioners, wile Richter talked about the legislative study group that looked at TENORM, of which he was a part.
“What I took out of that study commission is that the best solution for North Dakota is, it’s our waste. We need to figure out how to dispose of it,” he said. “The best solutions might be a combination of different things, land fill, the slurry wells to take things that are no more than 50 pico curies.”
Richter added that North Dakota’s laws are among the strictest in the nation.
At the conclusion of public comments, Anderson made the first motion on the WISCO TENORM amendment, to deny the permit. He indicated he had heard a lot of comments both for and against the amendment and said he appreciated hearing from constituents.
Ramberg seconded the motion, indicating that it was Round Prairie’s recommendation to deny the TENORM amendment that made him decide to oppose it.
The measure failed 3 to 2, with Ramberg and Anderson the only two voting no.
Commissioner David Montgomery then made the motion to approve WISCO’s permit, pointing out the company meets all seven of staff-listed criteria for a TENORM disposal site.
“We, in the last 18 months or so, have been provided a lot of information, a lot of facts, and had a lot of questions answered. From staff, from the state, from industry, and from ourselves,” Montgomery said. “And I guess I think it is time that we have some trust and we have some faith in the system. With the information that the state has provided us, with the information that the industry has provided us and move forward.”
Montgomery also said the county, as a Home Rule Charter County, has the authority to pass an ordinance limiting the number of TENORM facilities. That process is already in the works, he indicated.
No decision on what those limits would be has been reached. That would be the subject of future discussion.
Ramberg, in voting to deny the WISCO permit, had earlier in the discussion said it is about local control for him, with the Round Prairie Township having recommended denial of WISCO’s TENORM amendment..
Montgomery said local control is his concern as well.
“The state is watching this,” he said. “I think they’re very concerned about it also. But I tend to believe that, if something doesn’t happen with one of the counties to dispose of this waste that we produce, that the state will make a decision for us, and they’ll take that local control away from us.”
Ramberg agreed with that possibility, and also said he realizes that there will be some TENORM waste that is not appropriate for a slurry well, such as pipeline heaters. But he indicated he would still vote no on WISCO, because the Township recommended denial.
Anderson, meanwhile, said he would like to see a less reactive and more proactive approach from everyone on the issue.
“If the state would react to a ‘no’ vote based on force, to force us, then shame on them,” he said. “And if the government, if our governments are based on reaction instead of being proactive, then it’s time for change. It’s time for folks to be proactive and be leading people to find change, and find (the) technology to increase things and do it better. So I would still urge a ‘no’ vote.”
Montgomery’s motion included the criteria listed by planning and zoning staff, and was supported by Commissioners Steve Kemp and Cory Hanson.
Kemp said he believes that the best way to sort out the best solutions for TENORM is the free market.
“I have a tendency to believe that the cream always rises to the top,” he said. “If slurry well’s the answer, It’s gonna make itself the answer, and the technology is going to prove itself out.”
Hanson said he wanted to thank Development Services staff for their work on the issue and answering his questions during the process.
“You know, somme of these things, it’s irrelevant. Because the landfill is there, and it’s already been approved to be there. The safety concern has been addressed,” he said. “I believe Diana’s gonna do a good job from DEQ, and they’re gonna take care of it. So not an easy decision, a real hard one.”
There were fewer comments on Secure Energy’s proposal, with the bulk of comments already having been made on WISCO’s request.
Ramberg made the motion to approve Secure’s permit, with staff comments, which was seconded by Montgomery. Anderson this time was the only one voting against approval.