State Health Council Fails to Provide Sufficient Public Notice Regarding Radioactive Waste

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Oil and gas production creates undesirable byproducts including toxic and radioactive waste.

Since the first of the year, some of that waste is allowed at certain sites with a permit.

Some groups say they weren't given enough notice to testify at some public hearings, and the attorney general agrees.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the North Dakota State Health Council broke open records and meetings laws by failing to provide sufficient notice of its August 2015 meeting. The organizations that filed the complaint were pleased with his response, but only with half of it.

This complaint filed back in September 2015 by both the Dakota Resource Council and the state's Energy Industry Waste Coalition has been addressed by Stenehjem.

"Half of what the attorney general said, we were hoping for," said Don Morrison, Dakota Resource Council executive director.

According to the opinion released Tuesday, Stenehjem says the council failed to provide sufficient notice of its August 2015 meeting.

State rules require it should be posted the day the meeting is set.

The council scheduled the meeting three months in advance, but notice wasn't posted until 13 days before the event.

"That was a recognition that we are right that the State Health Council was in violation of state law," Morrison said.

Morrison says they were hoping the opinion would go further than acknowledging insufficient notice.

"The Health Council would rehear the issue and allow for public to be notified and be at that meeting," Morrison said.

He says his organization will continue to look for other options regarding radioactive waste. The Health Council says they didn't intend to misinform the public.

"We are trying to be transparent, we definitely want to follow any requirements of recommendations as Health Council members and I can tell you that whatever the attorney general recommended, we as a Health Council will be following in the future," said Genny Dienstmann, health council vice chair.

Stenehjem ordered the State Health Council to provide the minutes of the meeting in question free of charge to anyone who requests them.

The Health Department has received an application for a radioactive waste permit at a landfill south of Williston. Public hearings will be scheduled if the application goes through.