Health Department Should Hold Meeting on Radioactive Waste Rules


Residents of McKenzie County, N.D., attend a county commission meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, to oppose the disposal of radioactive oilfield waste. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Changes to state rules over the disposal of radioactive waste made by the State Health Department were both prudent and needed.

The changes were modest. We’re talking about mildly radioactive materials being disposed of under new rules that are still some of the tightest in the nation.

But activist groups are engaging in a ridiculous campaign of lawfare against the rules, suing over a Health Department hearing about the rules held this last winter was insufficiently noticed to the public.

That last isn’t just my opinion. When environmental activists filed an open meetings complaint with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office he ruled that the meeting, which was scheduled months in advance, should have been noticed to the public more than two days before it was held.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]What activists want is delay and headlines. A lengthy legal proceeding gives them both.[/mks_pullquote]

Stenehjem got it right. Public meetings need to be open to the public, and that includes making sure the public has adequate time to become aware of a meeting and make plans to attend.

So the Health Department flubbed it.

Stenehjem’s remedy was to have the Health Department mail the minutes of the meetings to the complaining activists. But in a lawsuit filed by former Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel, the activists are demanding that the meeting be held again.

The Health Department should acquiesce.

For one thing, they did actually make a mistake when they failed to provide proper notice of the meeting.

For another, holding the meeting again would likely be cheaper than litigating the matter with Vogel (who seems to have more time on her hands than sense these days). Sure, Vogel doesn’t have a very good track record before the courts in recent years (a lawsuit she’s party to over flaring has been a flop so far), but winning the lawsuit isn’t necessarily what the activists want.

What activists want is delay and headlines. A lengthy legal proceeding gives them both, even if they lose.

Another meeting held by the Health Department, even if it gets packed by activists bused in by deep-pocketed environmental groups, would almost certainly produce the same result as the first meeting.

North Dakota needs to get on with implementing these sensible rules for waste disposal, which will facilitate the safe and responsible disposal of this waste in our state, and that means taking this meeting talking point off the table.

Reschedule the meeting, and then let’s move on.