Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment was held on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Fitz Steele, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jared Carpenter, Co-Chair; Representative Fitz Steele, Co-Chair; Senators C.B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, Ernie Harris, Paul Hornback, John Schickel, Brandon Smith, Johnny Ray Turner, Robin L. Webb, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Hubert Collins, Tim Couch, Jim DuPlessis, Daniel Elliott, Chris Harris, Cluster Howard, Reginald Meeks, Rick G. Nelson, Lewis Nicholls, Marie Rader, John Short, Kevin Sinnette, Jim Stewart III, and Chuck Tackett.
Guests: Kevin Damron, Senior Project Manager at Palmer Engineering; Tom FitzGerald, Director of Kentucky Resources Council; George Brosi; Mary Krisken; Lane Boldman, Executive Director of Kentucky Conservation Committee; Tim Feeley, Deputy Secretary of Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS); and Colonel Dr. Tom Hart, Vice Chair of Concerned Citizens of Estill County.
Upon motion made by Representative Harris and seconded by Representative Nelson, the June 2, 2016 minutes were approved by voice vote and without objection.
Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County Low-Level Radioactive Waste Discussion
Mr. Wallace Taylor, Estill County Judge/Executive, provided information on the dumping of low-level radioactive waste at the Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County. Judge Taylor expressed concern that state agencies had been notified of the possible dumping of the low-level radioactive waste months before the citizens of Estill County became aware of it, but that they had failed to share the information with local officials. Since the discovery of the dumping, he and other local officials were still having trouble receiving timely information from state agencies involved in the matter.
On Friday, July 25, 2016 the Office of the Attorney General released a statement saying no criminal charges would be filed over the disposal of radioactive waste dumped at the landfill. Judge Taylor explained that notwithstanding the commonwealth’s decision to not pursue criminal charges in the matter, he has filed a civil lawsuit against Advanced Disposal, Blue Ridge Landfill, and Advanced Tenorm Services, among others, based on violations of the county’s solid waste ordinance as well as breaches of the host agreement with the county. He said that moving forward, the host agreement should be revised to require increased surveillance at the landfill and installation of landfill-funded equipment that can detect radioactive material. Judge Taylor also urged the committee to consider legislation to more carefully regulate deep drilling in Kentucky.
Responding to Representative Collins’ question, Judge Taylor said that radium-220 was the major radioactive material present in the hazardous waste dumped.
In response to a question from Representative Steele, Judge Taylor said that there are two schools within 1,000 feet from the Blue Ridge Landfill.
Responding to a question from Representative Nelson, Judge Taylor explained that independent testing was completed at the same time and location as state testing and from the independent testing no elevated levels of radiation were present. Judge Taylor stated that, if necessary, he is authorized to shut down the facility. In addition to the independent testing and inspection, monitoring has been increased at the landfill. Judge Taylor has been in contact with Congressman Barr regarding the issue.
Responding to Representative Howard’s question, Judge Taylor stated that the landfill employees were unaware of their exposure until the morning after the public hearing on the radioactive material dumping.
In response to Representative Elliott’s question, Judge Taylor explained that the Attorney General had no criminal findings and that the case would be forwarded to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) to pursue civil charges. Judge Taylor also said that in July 2015, the state was notified about the potential of the hazardous material coming into the state. In the future, Judge Taylor will request a picture and manifest for every truck that comes through the landfill.
In response to Representative DuPlessis, Judge Taylor said radiation levels on the hill behind one of the schools were higher than the radiation levels at the landfill. They were still trying to determine natural comparisons of the radium-226 levels to the normal levels behind the school.
Senator Smith expressed his support and gratitude for bringing this topic to the committee and that the state should be helping and not hindering the issue.
In response to a question from Representative Meeks, Judge Taylor elaborated on his encounter with a recycling truck heading to Paducah to offload electronics. Judge Taylor also said he has not been in contact with any other county judge/executives about the issue.
Senator Webb discussed her interest in the environmental effects of the landfill dumping on water resources. She also expressed her full support for Judge Taylor and his duty to protect the Estill County people and the environment.
Judge Taylor expressed his opinion that Kentucky should not become a dumping ground for out-of-state garbage due to lax environmental policies and that the state should be focused on developing and maintaining tourism.
Colonel Dr. Thomas Hart, Vice Chair of the Concerned Citizens of Estill County, discussed the history of the radioactive material dumping incident in Estill County and his expectations for how the issue would be resolved. The Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) learned about the illegal dumping of fracking waste in the Blue Ridge Landfill in January 2016. In March 2016, EEC issued a notice of violation to the Estill County landfill operator of advanced disposal for accepting the waste. Colonel Dr. Hart expressed his concern that the EEC did not inform the County Judge/Executive or the county health department during the period of January to March 2016.
Mr. Tom FitzGerald, Director of Kentucky Resources Council, briefed the committee on the handling of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) in the state of Kentucky. In 1993, Mr. FitzGerald negotiated the host agreement for the Estill County fiscal court and the operators of the landfill at the time, Waste Management, Inc. The host agreement specifically did not allow NORM. Mr. FitzGerald further explained the timeline of events that led to the dumping of low-level radioactive waste in Estill County. Mr. FitzGerald said currently the material is sufficiently shielded, however, there may have been decent exposure during the disposal of the waste. Mr. FitzGerald expressed his hopes that the Attorney General’s office will release their documents from their investigation in order to better understand the decision not to bring any criminal charges.
In response to a question from Representative Howard, Mr. FitzGerald confirmed there were 47 containers of radioactive sludge material dumped at the landfill.
In response to a question from Representative Tackett, Mr. FitzGerald stated that the EPA has established clearance levels for soil from uranium mill tailing sites, but have not adopted any regulations addressing NORM. These are categorized as “special wastes” and the EPA was to study these to determine if they warranted regulation under the hazardous and solid waste laws. At this time, neither the EPA nor any other federal agency has adopted comprehensive regulations for managing the elevated levels of radionuclides associated with oil and gas production.
In response to a question from Representative Harris, Mr. FitzGerald said CHFS has very broad statutory authority for managing these types of waste. The EEC has regulatory authority over landfills. Mr. FitzGerald stressed the importance of clarifying the definition of NORM.
In response to a question from Representative Nicholls, Mr. FitzGerald suggested there should be some follow-up health screenings for the workers who were exposed to the radioactive materials at the landfill.
Update from the Kentucky Oil and Gas Workgroup
Mr. Rick Bender, Executive Advisor, Energy and Environment Cabinet, gave an update on issues relating to radioactive waste disposal and the meetings of the Oil and Gas Workgroup. Mr. Bender explained that HB 563 of the 2016 Regular Session reconstituted the Oil and Gas Workgroup and directed it to conduct a review of issues relating to radioactive wastes. Mr. Bender explained that this year, there were 131 permitted oil and gas wells in the state. Only 12 were horizontal and subject to fracking, and of those, only four had been fracked.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned. Documents distributed during the meeting are available with meeting materials in the LRC Library.