FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Montana’s Radioactive Waste Legacy

Photograph Source: Tar Sands Blockade – CC BY 2.0

One label Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock won’t have to worry about being stuck with is “environmentalist.” His outdated support for coal in the face of a global warming crisis and his “leadership” on the massive and ongoing deforestation of public lands under the phony rubric of the Bush-era “Healthy Forests Initiative” are bad enough. But now, in the twilight of his time in charge of the state’s executive branch, his Department of Environmental Quality is promulgating administrative rules to allow Montana landfills to accept radioactive waste from out-of-state fracking operations.

There are a lot of drawbacks to being a lame duck politician. Since Bullock has time and again refused widespread calls for him to run against U.S. Sen. Steve Daines for the Senate — and his laughable presidential bid still leaves him at the bottom of the field — it seems obvious he’s intending to ride out his last year in office without worrying about his political future.

And true enough, political opponents don’t have much leverage on incumbents without the threat of a pending election. But the other side of that coin is that being a lame duck frees one to take positions and actions that could be risky if weighed on the scale of electoral politics.

In this particular case, Bullock could be standing up for what has consistently been called “the last best place” by ensuring the toughest standards in the nation for landfill disposal of radioactive fracking waste — or by prohibiting the disposal of radioactive out-of-state wastes entirely. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening and the potential for long-term damage to our environment should concern all Montanans.

Most Montanans could credibly question why Montana should take any of North Dakota’s radioactive wastes given that North Dakota has plenty of room to store its waste from the Bakken fracking operations. Since North Dakota makes the profits from fracking, it should responsibly take care of the subsequent problems — and make no mistake, radioactive wastes from fracking operations are a very real problem.

As noted in a recent report, “In addition to groundwater contamination, radiation is a safety concern for landfill workers. For them, the risk of radiation increases if they inhale TENORM (technologically enhanced radioactive material) dust, and lung cancer is a primary associated hazard.”

What could possibly be worth exposing Montana’s citizens to the long-lasting and lethal effects of radioactive fracking waste? The answer is the profits to be derived by a few landfill operators and some trucking companies and railroads that would ship the waste.

Currently much of the Bakken’s radioactive waste is being deposited in a landfill near Glendive that is owned by a Colorado company. The problem may not be confined to eastern Montana, however, since Missoula’s Republic Services landfill is permitted to take radioactive wastes that could be delivered by rail. And since the pending regulations allow much higher radioactivity and more lax landfill standards than other states, Montana could wind up as the destination for radioactive fracking waste from all over the country.

Governor Bullock was a teenager in 1980 and may not remember that Montanans passed Initiative 84 to prohibit the disposal of radioactive waste in Montana from mining or milling ore. The vote on a 1982 initiative to overturn that ban failed spectacularly with 76% of the electorate voting “no.”

Bullock’s choice is crystal clear. In his last year in office he can leave Montana with a glow-in-the-dark radioactive legacy. Or he can stand up for what the vast majority of Montanans have already approved — which is keeping Montana from becoming the radioactive waste dump for the nation.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

August 05, 2020
Roy Eidelson
Black Lives Matter: Resisting the Propaganda of Status Quo Defenders
Melvin Goodman
The Department of Homeland Security: the Ideal Authoritarian Tool
Paul Street
Misleaders at a Funeral: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Eulogizing Racial Justice in the Name of John Lewis
Seiji Yamada
Hiroshima, Technique, and Bioweapons
Vijay Prashad
How Trump Managed to Lead the World with the Worst Response to the COVID Pandemic
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Alternative
Jonas Ecke
The Worst Hunger Season Yet to Come: Global Moral Failure in the Time of Covid-19
Rafiq Kathwari
The Battle for Kashmir
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Arch-Kleptocrat is Found Guilty
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Cold War China Policy Will Isolate the U.S, Not China
Lee Camp
Why Housing Is a Human Right
Sam Pizzigati
For Egalitarians, a Sudden Sense of Possibility
Jonathan Cook
Can Israelis Broaden Their Protests Beyond Netanyahu?
Thomas Knapp
Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On
Binoy Kampmark
Staying on Message: Australia, the US and the AUSMIN Talks
Elliot Sperber
The View From Saturn 
August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail