Members of Idaho’s congressional delegation say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to duplicate other federal efforts to certify New Mexico nuclear waste repository, a case of “mission creep.”
Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, as well as Congressman Michael Crapo, have told EPA Administrator Carol Browner they oppose her agency’s plans to duplicate the role of the U.S. Energy Department in certifying the safety of sites currently holding transuranic waste bound for storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
The three Republicans said Tuesday that would only cost more and cause further delays as the Energy Department works to open WIPP. The EPA’s policy change was buried in 260 pages of procedures detailing the agency’s October decision to certify the safety of WIPP, pending public review.
The lawmakers said EPA’s new role has not been addressed in supporting documents and exceeds what Congress intended for Browner’s agency regarding WIPP certification.
They noted that Congress fully intended for the EPA to play a part in ensuring the underground operation is safe. But they contend the EPA is proposing to go beyond that responsibility by inspecting sites such as the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, where transuranic waste bound for New Mexico is currently held.
The trio also pointed out EPA inspectors have taken part in seven Energy Department audits of waste generator operations since 1995, and 11 other quality performance assessments for WIPP.
Never once did those inspectors express any concerns about the Energy Department’s quality assurance work, they said.