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Health Council will do over meeting on radioactive rules

BISMARCK -- The State Health Council, which is being sued for creating a radioactive waste program in North Dakota at an illegal public meeting last summer, now says it will hold a do-over meeting next month.

BISMARCK -- The State Health Council, which is being sued for creating a radioactive waste program in North Dakota at an illegal public meeting last summer, now says it will hold a do-over meeting next month.

The council’s secretary Londa Rodahl said the decision to conduct the meeting again Aug. 9 was made by members of the Health Council. She said the council - a citizens’ advisory board to the State Health Department - will “consider ratifying" all the decisions it made in August 2015, when it approved new rules for disposing of radioactive oilfield materials in North Dakota, along with other business items.

The call to meet comes a day after the Health Council was in South Central District Court, where two environmental watchdog groups asked the judge to enforce the state’s open meetings law by requiring the council to redo the meeting.

The attorney general’s office had agreed with the Energy Industry Waste Coalition and the Dakota Resource Council that the Health Council had failed to provide adequate public notice of the 2015 meeting but, as a remedy, ordered the council to mail the meeting minutes to the complaining parties.

Sarah Vogel, attorney for the two groups, said the council knows it’s going to lose the case and is holding a pre-emptive do-over to make the lawsuit unnecessary and possibly duck paying the attorney fees incurred in the case.

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Vogel said it’s unclear whether citizens will be able to comment at the upcoming meeting, though citizens in the western oil patch are impacted by the new rules. Her case is supported by affidavits from McKenzie County residents who say they would have commented on the proposed radioactive rules if they’d had enough notice to make the meeting.

Rodahl said there is no ban against public comment at council meetings, but said it’s up to the chairman whether to allow it.

The new rules to allow up to 50 picocuries of radioactive material to be disposed in North Dakota were effective as of January. Since then, two companies have told the Health Department they’re interested in a specialized permit. IHD Disposal recently put its permit request for a site near Alexander on indefinite hold in light of local protest and Secure Energy Services continues the process for a site north of Williston.

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