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Environment & Science

Montana To Move Forward With New TENORM Disposal Rule

The Environmental Quality Council web meeting
Montana State Legislator
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The Montana Environmental Quality Council met virtually on May 27, 2020.

The Environmental Quality Council decided not to renew its April delay of the first statewide rules for disposing Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, or TENORM.

Republican Senator Mike Lang of Malta called for a meeting of the Montana Environmental Quality Council this April over his concern that the state didn’t offer enough opportunity for public comment on a redrafted rule specifying the upper limit of radioactivity.

At this week’s meeting, Lang removed his objection.

“I think a lot of questions have been answered that were public meetings. We were not notified of that I had missed that earlier,” Lang said.

The proposed TENORM rules are the result of a highly disputed, years long process. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released an amendment to some of those regulations earlier this year following widespread public comment.

Some commenters specifically took issue with a 2019 proposal to allow a facility intake limit of 200 picocuries per gram of radioactivity.

That’s four times higher than North Dakota’s limit of 50 picocuries per gram, which some people felt would lead North Dakota operations to dump their TENORM in Montana. Much of Montana’s radioactive material is disposed of at a waste site southwest of Sydney.

The amendment to the rules released in January lowers the maximum radioactivity at intake down to 50 picocuries.

The council voted 12 to 2 to withdraw its informal objection putting a hold on the rules. An informal objection would have delayed the adoption of the rules and given the council time to decide on how it would like to proceed by, for instance, submitting a comment on the amended rule to DEQ.

DEQ director Shaun McGrath says the department expects the rules to go into effect by the end of June.