A proposal to allow a second nuclear waste disposal facility in Tooele County’s west desert appears to have found new life.
The Tooele County Planning Commission voted Wednesday night to forward a request for general plan and land use changes that would allow for the creation of additional hazardous waste zones in the county’s west desert to the county commission.
The county commission could have voted to recommend denial of the request by the county commission, as they did two years ago, but this time they opted to pass the proposal on with the recommendation that the county commission weigh in on the proposals suggestion that public sentiment supports the creation of additional hazardous waste zones.
The request for the change was made by Charles Judd, president of Cedar Mountain Environmental, a Salt Lake City-based transportation and waste management company. Judd wants to open up a 640- acre low-level radioactive waste disposal site on land owned by the School LAND Trust program.
“Since 2005, when the county shrunk the size of the hazardous waste corridor and banned the creation of additional hazardous waste zones, the amount of waste coming into the county has dropped,” said Judd. “A message was sent out that Tooele County doesn’t want any more of this waste. New sites opened up in Idaho and Texas that compete for this waste, and a lot of it is sent to these places now.”
Judd said his proposal would bring jobs and revenue back to Tooele County.
Judd, who was president of Envirocare, the precursor of EnergySolutions, from 1998 to 2002, said his site would take only low-level radioactive class A waste — the same category of waste accepted by EnergySolutions — and went a step further to say he is not interested in controversial waste streams.
“I don’t want foreign waste or depleted uranium,” said Judd. “If there is concern about whether or not a particular kind of waste should come to the county then I don’t want it.”
The planning commission voted to recommend the county commission deny a similar request made by Judd in 2010.
The county commission went on to deny that request but told Judd to proceed with working on state approval for his new site and then come back to the commissioners at a future date. In 2005, Tooele County commissioners shrunk the hazardous waste zones in Tooele’s west desert to the area immediately surrounding existing operations and passed a land-use ordinance that prohibited the creation of any new hazardous waste zones after Sept. 1, 2005.
At the time of the 2005 changes, the commission cited public sentiment opposing the expansion of the hazardous waste industry.
Judd said he has been working for two years since the denial of his 2010 request with the state on siting criteria, drilling wells at the site, monitoring the site and doing studies of the proposed facility. He is now near completion of the state siting criteria and wants to proceed with the changes to the county general plan and zoning law that will allow him to submit a proposal to the county. Judd emphasized that the planning commission is not at this time approving his facility, but with the approval of the proposed changes he would still need to apply for a conditional use permit and obtain all federal, state and local permits.
Margaret Bird, director of the School LAND Trust program, spoke in favor of the proposed changes, saying that the new disposal site would not only bring new revenue into the county but would also mean additional property tax for the Tooele County School District and more revenue in the School LAND Trust program for community councils to allocate to local needs.
“I like the direction this is going better than what we had two years ago. It is very specific with talking about the general plan,” said Bill Hogan, planning commission member. “I don’t mind sending it up to the county commissioners for them to look at.”
Judd’s proposed change to the general plan included language that stated public sentiment now supports additional hazardous waste facilities to create revenue and jobs, and that county commissioners had stated they were comfortable with competition in the waste industry.
Bryan Coulter, a planning commission member, struck the language about public sentiment and commissioners’ position on competition before making a motion that the proposal be sent to the county commission with the recommendation that it make the decision about the public’s sentiment.
The commission members present at the meeting then voted unanimously to send the proposed changes on to the county commission. Jill Thomas, planning commission member, was not present.
“I just want to make it clear that I am sending this to the county commissioners so they can make the decision on whether the public sentiment has changed,” said Hogan.