Western states struggle with wave of oil & gas radioactive waste

WORC's latest report, No Time to Waste, examines standards and disposal practices around radioactive oil and gas waste in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

It finds that state governments in each of these states fail to protect citizens and the environment from a hazardous and quickly growing waste stream.

Seth Newton, a rancher in Glendive, Mont., lives just downstream of an oilfield waste facility, and has witnessed the lax oversight firsthand.

The facility near his ranch “is full of alarming shortcomings,” he said. “It was sited just a half mile from Deer Creek, and was only designed to weather a 25-year storm event. Any larger storm could cause radioactive waste to leach into the creek. Plus, the bottom of the landfill is only 15 feet above an aquifer.”

“My family’s livelihood depends on this stream, these aquifers, and the health of this land,” Newton said. “The poorly managed siting, design, and construction of this facility puts our health and the health of the ranch at risk.”

The report calls for federal rules for radioactive oil and gas waste and stronger state standards to prevent people like Seth from being put at risk.

Cut harmful oil & gas air pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to require the oil and gas industry to limit methane emissions at oil and gas operations. 

Methane is a damaging greenhouse gas — 80 times more harmful to the climate than carbon.

Lowering methane pollution also cuts cancer causing volatile organic compounds (VOC), which compromise human health.

Go to WORC's Action Page to urge the EPA to adopt its proposed standards.

WORC appeals decision denying an environmental study of the coal program

WORC and Friends of the Earth filed an appeal Oct. 26 to a ruling dismissing a lawsuit seeking an environmental study of the federal coal leasing by the Bureau of Land Management.

The appeal was filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The litigation is supported by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

“The federal coal program operates on outdated information. It’s time for the administration to comprehensively assess the effects of the coal program on the health of local communities, taxpayers, and climate change,” said Bob LeResche, Chair of WORC.

Judge orders hard look at lack of reclamation at Spring Creek Mine

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby ruled Oct. 21 that the Department of Interior (DOI) improperly granted Cloud Peak Energy a permit to expand its Spring Creek mine in southeast Montana because the company had failed to reclaim existing mine land. The judge also ruled that DOI failed to adequately look at air quality and coal combustion impacts, and that the agency improperly failed to notify the public before allowing expansion of the mine.

Northern Plains Resource Council, WORC, and WildEarth Guardians sued the DOI, claiming the department did not adequately include the public in the mine permitting process. The groups also asserted that the government failed to require reclamation at the now 35-year-old open pit mine, and failed to adequately look at air quality impacts.

“Northern Plains got involved in this case because we care about reclamation of coal mines,” said Mark Fix, a past Chair of Northern Plains. “Spring Creek is bad at reclamation. Reclamation means more jobs for Spring Creek miners and restoring land to its productive use. It’s a win-win!”

“What we want is to ensure that reclamation is taking place at a thorough and timely pace and that the public has the opportunity to participate in these decisions, as the law clearly requires," said Bob LeResche, Chair of WORC. “Under this decision, mining can proceed while the issues we raised can be addressed.”

Hydraulic Fracturing Photos

John Fenton and his
neigbors deal with the impacts of gas
drilling and hydraulic fracturing daily.
Click on Learn More to
view photographs.
Who's Your Farmer?

Powder River member Audrey Malan gives thanks for local food and local producers in a High Plains News radio commentary.


Member Group News

Referral signatures delivered – Dakota Resource Council and North Dakota Farmers Union submit petition for a referendum to end corporate farming exemptions. (The Bismarck Tribune, June 16, 2015)

Cook: The Buffalo Plan and the threat of climate chaos - Commentary questions sale of 10 billion tons of federal coal in light of President Barack Obama’s order to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Casper Star-Tribune, June 13, 2015)

Many voice opposition to Tongue River Railroad - People line up to oppose Tongue River Railroad during a “people’s hearing” in Billings. (The Billings Gazette, June 3, 2015)

More Member Group News


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