Landifll protest

Residents of McKenzie County attended a county commission meeting in April to oppose the disposal of radioactive oilfield waste.

FORUM NEWS SERVICE

A judge heard arguments Monday in a case filed by two environmental watchdog groups, who allege the Health Council did not give proper notice for a meeting it held about radioactive waste rules and ask that the rules be voided and the meeting be re-held.

South Central District Judge Thomas Schneider said he would issue an opinion on whether to proceed to trial or dismiss the case. 

The regulations decided on at the Aug. 11 meeting raised the acceptable levels of radioactivity that can be disposed in state landfills.

At the hearing, an attorney for the Health Council conceded the agency had not given proper notice of the meeting, but argued the meeting doesn't need to be done over. The Health Council already complied with an official opinion from the state attorney general by providing minutes of the meeting after the fact. He noted that five days' notice had been given, and some people had come to speak at the meeting.

"No one was deprived of the ability to attend the meetings. They just weren't noticed correctly," said Jeff Petrie, an assistant attorney general. 

Petrie also argued that because it was a meeting not a hearing, people had a right to be present but not necessarily to testify. People had made comments in the past at properly noticed hearings. 

"The Health Council wanted to be as transparent as possible," Petrie said of allowing testimony at the contested meeting.

Sarah Vogel, who represents the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition and the Dakota Resource Council, argued that the Attorney General's opinion was unpersuasive and needed to be reviewed by the court. Vogel said an appropriate remedy would be to re-convene the meeting. Minutes only tell you what happened at a meeting, she argued.

"It defies common sense," Vogel said.

Vogel said people were harmed by the failure to give proper notice.

Several people filed affidavits in the case, saying they would have appeared and spoken about the way the radioactive waste would affect their health and land and property values.

Vogel also said there were factual matters that required a trial to resolve, including when the agenda for the meeting was set and whether people were harmed.

She said the attorney general has allowed a re-do of a meeting in other cases.

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com

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