For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: May 25, 2006
Court Rules DOE Must Remove All Transuranic Waste From INL, Including Buried Transuranic Waste
(Boise) – The Attorney General’s office received a favorable ruling today in the legal dispute with the United States Department of Energy over terms of the 1995 nuclear waste agreement, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
Wasden’s office, on behalf of Governor Dirk Kempthorne and the State of Idaho, asked the Federal District Court in Boise to issue an order declaring that the 1995 agreement requires removal of all transuranic waste buried at the INL.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge stated in his decision that “The words ‘all transuranic waste now located at’ [INL] are all inclusive terms and unambiguous, particularly when viewing the evidence of the parties intent.”
“The court’s decision was not at all unexpected,” Attorney General Wasden said. “The State of Idaho maintained that the 1995 agreement was clear and unambiguous and, specifically, that ‘all transuranic waste’ means exactly what it says, all transuranic waste. The court’s decision upheld Idaho’s position.”
“This is great news for Idaho,” Acting Governor Jim Risch said. “The judge has ruled the way Idaho has interpreted the agreement all along. When Governor Batt negotiated this deal it was with the understanding that all the waste would eventually leave Idaho. We will continue to insist that the federal government comply with our agreement to clean up the site.”
Former Governor Phil Batt and former Attorney General Al Lance negotiated the historic agreement, which requires the federal government to remove all transuranic waste and all spent fuel from INL. Although the court-enforceable agreement clearly stated that all transuranic waste must be removed, the Department of Energy took the position that buried waste was not covered by the agreement.
The Court recognized the importance of the meaning of written terms in a contract: “As with everything in the law, but even more so in contract law, words are our tools,” Judge Lodge wrote. “The words expressed in a contract become legally binding and enforceable commitments upon the parties once the contract is finalized.”
“I hope that we don’t have to go to court again for interpretation of the 1995 agreement,” Wasden said. “Completing the cleanup and removal on schedule and expanding INL’s mission so that it remains a vital participant in Idaho’s economy are better uses for scarce federal resources. Nevertheless, if we have to return to court to enforce the agreement, we will.
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