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Archive for Saturday, July 24, 2004

Neb. nuclear waste dump discussions will continue

July 24, 2004

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— Discussions will continue to settle a multimillion dollar lawsuit accusing Nebraska of blocking construction of a low-level nuclear waste dump, members of the regional group suing the state said Friday.

Representatives of the other four states in the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact met for 2 1/2 hours behind closed doors in Overland Park before saying they had given their attorneys guidance in negotiations with Nebraska.

"We look forward to hearing from our counsel as soon as they have acted upon this," said compact chairwoman Laura Gilson.

Gilson, who represents Arkansas, declined afterward to say what that guidance is or anything about the negotiations.

"We have been listening to Nebraska and working in good faith and will continue to do so through our counsel," Gilson said.

The compact earlier rejected a settlement offer and said it would offer a counterproposal. Gilson would not comment on the status of any proposal or counterproposal.

"I'm not free to discuss anything," she said. "That's a matter for our counsel to handle."

Kansas compact representative Jim O'Connell said in an interview that he felt Nebraska officials were working in good faith with the commission.

Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns and Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning both have been responsible and responsive toward discussions about a possible settlement, O'Connell said.

A spokeswoman for Bruning declined to comment Friday on the status of any settlement.

Nebraska has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $151 million to the compact, which also includes Oklahoma and Louisiana. The judge said Nebraska acted in bad faith in 1998 when it denied an application to build a waste dump.

The dump was to take waste from the compact states.

Nebraksa leaders have been trying to reach an out-of-court settlement. At the same time, Nebraska has appealed U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The compact has until Aug. 19 to respond to that appeal.

The goal of the compact remains to find a place to take the waste, O'Connell said.

Johanns also has approached Texas about storing nuclear waste from the compact states there.

If that is a workable solution, it should be pursued, O'Connell said.

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