Murphy’s Law #43

September 29, 2017

Last week I was in Bismarck to cover interim committees (see #42 for Ag) and on Wednesday it was the first meeting for Natural Resources. Its directives for next year or so include:
1. Study whether state and local level regulation of high-level radioactive waste disposal is consistent with applicable federal regulations and to ensure ND has proper input into federal location selection processes.
2. Study the cooperation and communication between the Public Service Commission (PSC) and local governments in regard to ensuring ordinances and zoning are considered and addressed as part of the application and public hearings process.
3. Study the impact of wind energy development on the environment, addressing and researching landowner issues and identifying where new legislation might be useful.
If you are still with me, they are to do this in three to five meetings total as the state tries to save money by limiting bringing legislators together for these studies.
First they heard testimony from people, mostly farmers, from Pierce County who were convinced that an 8-inch hole drilled deeply (around 15,000 feet was the goal) was intended to house high level nuclear waste. Then the State Geologist gave all a lesson on state and fed regulations on high level nuclear waste disposal and their selection process.
This was followed by the Dept. of Health breaking down the three levels of nuclear waste;
High which is measured in Curies and comes from spent rods from nuclear plants and such,
Low level which in measured in Millicuries (one thousandth of a Curie) and is generated by hospitals, research, x-rays, etc., and
T-Norm which is measured in Picocuries (one millionth) and is often a byproduct of the oil and gas play as it comes from drill tailings and filter socks.
North Dakota allows refuse up to 5 picocuries to be stored in special landfills. Some neighboring states allow up to 30 picocuries. For years, the Health Department has been telling us that some granite counter tops would measure in the 5 picocuries neighborhood, but of course no one wants to have a waste disposal site of any kind near them.
Next came a geologist from the EERC in Grand Forks who wanted to drill the hole in Pierce County. He stated that it was all about seeing how the bore hole would react at 3 miles with the unique heat and pressures that go with it. He was all about science and exploration, but the people who testified were not buying it, seeing such drilling as a lead-in to storing high level waste. As far as I could tell, the project was cancelled.
Then came a confusing discussion between attorneys about where two new laws have been placed and combined in the Century Code after the session ended in May. This affects wind power being thrown in to a chapter with gas and oil which some say should not be placed as they have been. It involved which law passed later than the other. The Code Reviser (attorney) said one thing, the industries another. The committee voted to have a law for the next session drawn up to fix it. Some folks are not happy, saying the Code Reviser could simply fix it now, but the Reviser insists it is not within their purview to do so. Of course, these siting issues affect landowners all over the state and is the reason we are there keeping an eye on them for you.