by Edie Flanagin
CONEJOS- The concerned citizens of Conejos County brought suit against big government earlier this year and the “little guys” won. The Department of Energy released the settlement agreement Monday.
The settlement is a big win for the people of Conejos County and for the citizens of Huerfano County, as well, since the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad (SL&RG) planned to ship radioactive waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory across La Veta Pass, through La Veta and into Walsenburg on its way to the Clive, Utah disposal site.
The settlement between the DOE and the plaintiffs states that the DOE is “not currently proposing to utilize the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad (SL&RG) truck to rail transfer point … located near the town of Antonito in Conejos County, Colorado, for the shipment of any waste materials resulting from the environmental restoration and clean-up of certain areas of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
A second part of the agreement says… if the transfer site is considered in the future, a complete environmental analysis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be done and will include public notice and an opportunity to comment.
The DOE also agreed to pay for the plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and other costs related to the suit. The winning plaintiffs: Conejos County Clean Water, Inc; San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council; and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety worked hard in getting the agreement from DOE. The District Court approved the agreement Tuesday.
Will this agreement end the plans of the SL&RG to move waste across the pass? The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has yet to rule on another aspect of the proposed transfer site; does the railroad have to abide by local land use rules or is it exempt? The ruling from STB is expected sometime this spring. Until then, the radioactive waste truck-to-train transfer is still a possibility. The Huerfano World Journal will report as events unfold in this interesting case.