Beyond Nuclear Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court in Opposition to Fermi 3 Proposed New Atomic Reactor
|Environmental Coalition’s Decade-Long Resistance Challenges NRC Rule that Undermines National Environmental Policy Act to Aid New Reactor Construction|
|Washington, D.C. and Monroe County, MI—Beyond Nuclear, represented by Toledo, Ohio attorney Terry Lodge, has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the proposed new Fermi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 atomic reactor in Frenchtown Township, Michigan. For over six years, the environmental coalition opposing Fermi 3 has protested NRC’s exclusion of the 29-mile-long, 300-foot-wide transmission line corridor from its NEPA-required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 10.8 miles of that transmission corridor would pass through previously undisturbed ecosystems, including forested wetlands, very likely critical habitat for numerous endangered and threatened plant and animal species.
On Monday, Lodge submitted a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. (A link to the Petition, and related documents, is posted at the Beyond Nuclear website.) The appeal, of a November 27, 2017 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling, questions: Did the NRC commit segmentation, and violate the longstanding recognition of the pre-eminence of NEPA, when it redefined “construction” in its Atomic Energy Act regulations to exclude environmental impact analysis of a major, integral transmission line corridor through critical habitat for endangered and threatened species? Lodge further questioned: Did the NRC violate its duty to obey NEPA when it denied admission of public intervenors’ contention because of an arbitrarily short deadline and simultaneously rejected its own Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel’s (ASLBP) sua sponte recommended adjudication of the matter?
The ASLBP presiding over the Fermi 3 licensing proceeding from 2009 to 2015 found the environmental coalition’s transmission corridor NEPA contention merited it to request permission from the NRC Commissioners to undertake its own review of the matter. Such ASLBP sua sponte initiatives have only occurred a small handful of times in decades. The NRC Commission, however, blocked the ASLBP review, just as it rejected the environmental coalition’s appeals, leading to this federal lawsuit.
“This is the first time the NRC’s 2007 Limited Work Authorization (LWA) rule change has been challenged,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog on the nuclear power industry based in Takoma Park, Maryland. “LWA allowed ground to be broken, and major excavation and construction to begin in a great big hurry, at proposed new reactors at Vogtle in Georgia, and Summer in South Carolina. We are striving to prevent such high-speed bulldozing, in violation of NEPA, at Fermi 3,” said Kamps.
The NRC LWA rule change was brought to public light by Bloomberg reporter Elliot Blair Smith in a September 25, 2007 article entitled “Nuclear Utilities Redefine One Word to Bulldoze for New Plants.” Critics blasted the rule change, undermining NEPA, as Orwellian. (For a Beyond Nuclear backgrounder, see this link.) To exclude such major nuclear power plant construction projects as transmission line corridors as “preconstruction activities,” in an end run around many decades of established environmental protection law, critics slammed as “Nukespeak.”
“In one of the worst revolving door scandals in NRC history, NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield shepherded the LWA rule change into regulations, upending decades of agency policy by redefining the word ‘construction’ to now exclude such major construction projects as transmission corridors,” said Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan. “After this favor to the nuclear industry, Merrifield then immediately went to work for the Shaw Group, which specialized in new reactor construction, taking a senior vice president position with an annual salary topping a million dollars,” said Keegan, who has watchdogged the Fermi nuclear power plant for more than three decades.
“This jurisdictional grab is clearly not in the public interest,” Keegan added.
“NEPA is one of the top environmental protection laws in our country,” said Toledo attorney Terry Lodge. “NRC cannot be allowed to excuse itself from obeying this half-century old, hard won law,” said Lodge, who has served as legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear and the environmental coalition since the beginning of this licensing proceeding in 2008.
“The list of endangered and threatened species likely inhabiting this corridor, that would be damaged or destroyed by the transmission lines and towers, includes the Indiana bat, mussels such as the Snuffbox, Northern Riffleshell, and Purple Lilliput, snakes such as the Eastern Massasauga rattler and Eastern Fox constrictor, and plants such as the Eastern Prairie fringed orchid, to name but some,” said Lodge.
This U.S. Supreme Court appeal caps a decade of resistance to Fermi 3. Detroit Edison (DTE) announced the proposed new reactor in February 2007, as part of the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance.” DTE applied to NRC for a combined construction and operation license in September 2008. The bi-national environmental coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, legally intervened in March 2009. The coalition, with Lodge as legal counsel, ultimately submitted some three-dozen technical contentions to the NRC’s ASLB. Oral hearings were held in downtown Monroe, MI at Halloween, 2013. When the NRC approved DTE’s Fermi 3 license in May 2015, the coalition immediately appealed to the federal courts.
This appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court not only culminates this decade of resistance. It carries on a tradition of anti-nuclear resistance at Fermi dating back six decades, to when the United Auto Workers appealed its case against Fermi Unit 1 to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fermi 3 would be built on the very spot where Fermi 1 had a partial core meltdown on October 5, 1966, as documented in John G. Fuller’s book We Almost Lost Detroit.
|Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.org. www.beyondnuclear.org.|
The proposed operation would inject perfectly good clean water into an oilfield in order to increase production. The injection process increases the pressure in the underground oil reserve, and more oil may become available at nearby wells.
EPA is seeking comments on the Holcomb 1-22 well, draft permit number MI-035-2R-0034.
Thursday, July 25
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Public EPA hearing
7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Clare High School
201 E. State St.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to allow Muskegon Development Company, 1425 South Mission Road, Mount Pleasant, Michigan to inject fluid underground by approving the company’s application for what EPA calls a Class II injection well permit.
If EPA makes its approval final, Muskegon Development Company may inject fresh water for enhanced oil recovery into a rock formation 4948 feet below the surface through the Holcomb 1-22 injection well near N. Athey and E. Townline Lake Roads in Hamilton Township of Clare County.
Muskegon Development Company has also applied for a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
EPA received requests for a public hearing on this proposed permit approval. EPA will hold a public meeting and hearing Tuesday, July 25. During the hearing, you will have an opportunity to make oral comments or submit written comments. EPA will consider all comments it receives, and then issue a final decision along with a response to the significant comments.
The new public comment period ends Friday, July 28.
CACC is working with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation to bring this issue to the public’s attention, educate the public about this and other injection wells, and to support public comment at the EPA meeting.
See the facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/1876805665903238
and stay tuned for more information…
Line 5. We all know the 63 year old oil pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinaw. (Well, most of us. More and more each day.)
We all know how this line is operated by Enbridge, the same company that let nearly one million gallons of oil spill into the Kalamazoo River. We all want Line 5 shut down. This is the summer we turn up the heat; beginning March 13th at noon.
Show up and demand or support a decision for the immediate shut down of line 5! The rally will begin at noon, the meeting begins at 1:30.
WEAR BLUE!!! – Wear blue clothing in support of a healthy Great Lakes Basin!
The meeting will be held at 7109 West Saginaw Highway Lansing, Mi in the Lake Michigan Room.
Previous agendas and meeting minutes can be found here
Oil And Water Don’t Mix have also put out a public call-out
Want to speak during the meeting? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the public comment session. Check out FLOW‘s new fact sheet for some ideas. Even if you can’t or don’t want to speak during the meeting, showing up and holding a sign outside will help, and let’s pack the meeting hall with people dressed in blue as a show of solidarity for clean water!
Thanks to models from the Graham Sustainability Institute at University of Michigan, we know what a Line 5 spill would look like. Devastating. Watch below: