Utah state administrators don't like reading between the lines, apparently. Things didn't sit well when a lease agreement for a proposed nuclear waste storage facility in Tooele arrived with four portions blacked out.
The state filed a lawsuit Thursday to see exactly what was cooking between the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes and Private Fuel Storage, a Delaware company looking for a place to temporarily store high-level nuclear waste.In the suit, the state says that it is concerned about the potential for radiation leakage, the possibility of the temporary site turning into a permanent site, and the proximity of major population centers and resources to the site.
All these concerns should entitle them to see the whole agreement and play a part in the lease approval process, they argue.
"There is no legal standing for the state of Utah to intervene in a lease approval process between a sovereign Indian tribe, the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a private corporation," wrote BIA superintendent David Alison to attorney general Phillip Pugsley in a July 1997 letter.
In the letter, Allison said he acknowledged the state's concerns and said the state would be able to give input during the environmental review process and Nuclear Regulatory Commission li-cens-ing process.
But this isn't good enough, the state's lawsuit says. The state should be able to participate in the development and consideration of issues during the lease, it contends. Further, the NRC uses a different standard from the BIA in the lease approval proceedings, the state argues.
Three times now the state has been told "no" when trying to intervene in the proceedings. Denied by the superintendent of the Uintah and Ouray Agency, as well as the acting Director of the Phoenix Area Office and the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, the state is out of agencies it might influence to overturn the decision.
"We believe your appeal of the superintendent's decision to conditionally approve the lease is premature," wrote Jeanette Hanna, acting director of the Phoenix Area Office, in her denial.
The state's two requests to see the lease agreement were filed through the Freedom of Information Act, which allows government bodies to release documents that are not classified or important to government security.
It is the same act that the BIA is using to withhold the information.
The unreadable portions of the lease include provisions regarding taxes and regulations, annual expense projections and enforceability agreements.
"The thing that concerns me most is the threat to sovereignty, not only for this, but for all tribes," said Allison. "It would become a precedent."