Envirocare of Utah may be getting another run for its money.
One of Envirocare's competitors, Waste Control Specialists, has filed a second lawsuit against the Department of Energy. Waste Control claims DOE did not give fair consideration to the company in awarding a potentially multimillion-dollar cleanup and disposal contract to Envirocare, the only commercial company in Utah licensed to handle low-level radioactive waste.The first lawsuit, filed in 1997, was voluntarily withdrawn by Waste Control lawyers. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals told Waste Control that its lawsuit was premature, since DOE hadn't yet awarded the contract to any company.
On June 30, DOE awarded Envirocare the contract to dispose of waste from the Fernald site in Ohio, where nuclear fuel and munitions were handled for years. One month later, Texas-based Waste Control, which has wanted to compete with Envirocare in the low-level radioactive waste market, sued again in hopes to "level the playing field for competition."
The problem Waste Control continues to run in to is obtaining a license.
DOE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are the only entities that have the authority to issue licenses for radioactive waste disposal. The NRC would give Texas the authority to regulate itself, but Texas doesn't want the reponsibility, said Waste Control's attorney John Kyte.
Utah is able to issue licenses to Envirocare because the DOE and NRC have given the state regulatory authority to do so.
"(Waste Control) seeks nothing more than a fair chance to compete within a system wherein honesty and integrity are rewarded, and corruption is not," Kyte said. "We will do what is necessary to see that such a system is established."
Envirocare's president Charles Judd isn't too worried about what this lawsuit could mean to his company.
"This lawsuit isn't going to throw a monkey wrench into our efforts to accept this waste from the DOE," he said. "We're confident that the DOE has done the right thing in awarding the contract, so we see no reason that (Waste Control's) complaint will hold up."
Even if the court issues an injunction against DOE, thus stopping shipments of waste to Envirocare, it would still take Waste Control at least two years before they could receive waste from the Ohio nuclear weapons facility.
The DOE Request for Proposal requirements state that before a waste company is awarded a contract, the company has to obtain "the required permits and licenses, within 27 months of the date of contract award, the proper federal, state and local permits and licenses for the permanent disposal of low-level radioactive waste generated by federal facilities."
The only disposal site in the nation with both licenses is Envirocare's facility in Tooele County.
In Waste Control's first lawsuit, they argued that federal law allowed DOE to send its cleanup waste to any site it chooses, and that there was no legal requirement for state and federal licenses. The department's decision to require these licenses was arbitrary, Waste Control claimed.
Kyte also claims that DOE's contract award to Envirocare creates "a huge monopoly" because nearly all of the waste from the Fernald site is sent exclusively to Envirocare.
Judd said that Envirocare only receives the waste material DOE does not process itself, which is only 3 percent of the total waste.