They might not have a plan, but at least they have a schedule: The U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Washington have agreed to a cleanup time frame for both high- and low-level waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation (HCN, 11/11/02: Feds find shortcuts in nuclear cleanup). While the dispute over who will regulate the cleanup remains to be decided in court, the state has agreed to the Energy Department’s cleanup “milestones.” These range from treating stored low-level waste by 2009 to figuring out how to treat certain high-level wastes by 2012.
It’s official: Wastewater by any other name is still wastewater. Last spring, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that wastewater from coalbed methane drilling is “industrial waste” that must be regulated under the Clean Water Act (HCN, 4/28/03: The Lastest Bounce). Industry groups fought the decision, but in October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. Now, the lower court ruling will stand, and gas drillers will have to follow federal cleanup laws and obtain state permits before dumping the dirty water into rivers.
Despite their initial grandstanding and grumbling, the Democrats have wimped out: After threatening to block President Bush’s nomination of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, all but eight Senate Democrats voted to confirm him (HCN, 9/1/03: Mr. Middle Ground gets called to Washington). Four of Leavitt’s loudest critics — Sens. John Edwards, D-N.C., John Kerry, D-Mass., Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., — didn’t even bother to vote.