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Judge says he won't dismiss illegal radioactive waste meeting lawsuit

Nicole Donaghy, organizer for the Dakota Resource Council, protested the lack of public notice for the August 2015 State Health Council meeting, in which new radioactive waste disposal rules were approved. Darrell Dorgan, spokesman for the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition, and Marie Hoff, right, also protested. Bismarck Tribune file photo

BISMARCK—A district court judge said Monday he won't dismiss a suit against the North Dakota Health Council for holding an illegal public meeting when it approved rules for a new radioactive waste disposal in North Dakota last year.

Two environmental groups want the judge to enforce the state's public meeting laws that were violated when the advisory council to the state Health Department approved the new waste rules last August. The North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition and the Dakota Resource Council say the proper remedy is for the meeting to be held over with proper notice to the public.

The Health Council asked the court to dismiss the suit, but South Central District Judge Thomas Schneider denied that motion after hearing arguments last week. Schneider said some facts need to be clarified, including whether anyone was harmed by not having notice and whether they could have made comments at the meeting.

In the meantime, the council decided to hold a do-over meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 9 at the Pioneer Room in the Capitol. It will consider ratifying the new radioactive waste rules and other business it conducted at the illegal meeting, according to its agenda.

The environmental groups' attorney, Sarah Vogel, said she plans to press forward despite the scheduled do-over, as she wants to create legal precedent to clarify that the attorney general doesn't have the last word in public meeting violations.

The attorney general did find that the council's meeting notice was inadequate and said it could be remedied by mailing the meeting minutes to the complaining parties.

The radioactive waste rules went into effect Jan. 1, but so far, no permits have been issued for the disposal of up to 50 picocuries of radioactive materials from oil and gas production.

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