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Court Rebuffs Plan for Nuclear Waste Dump

November 16, 2000|From Associated Press

A federal appeals court panel has delivered the second legal defeat in three weeks to a company seeking to build and operate a low-level nuclear waste dump in the Mojave Desert.

A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the case of US Ecology Inc. on Tuesday. The case sought to force the U.S. Department of Interior to sell a 1.7-square-mile Ward Valley site to the state of California for use as a dump for radioactive waste.

The state had contracted with the Idaho firm in 1985 to develop the site, near Needles, 25 miles west of the Colorado River.

In an opinion written by Judge Harry T. Edwards, the panel found that US Ecology lacks the standing to contest the federal government's refusal to sell the site.

The sale of land by the federal government to the state was originally approved in the closing days of the Bush administration, but Bruce Babbitt--the interior secretary under President Clinton--rescinded the order a month later.

US Ecology and the state of California, under Ward Valley proponent Gov. Pete Wilson, sued Interior over Babbitt's decision in 1997. A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the federal government last year. By that time, Ward Valley opponent Gray Davis was governor, and the state declined to appeal.

A San Diego County Superior Court judge ruled last month that California is under no obligation to pursue the project.

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