Following is my editorial that has been published on the websites of:
DEQ’s proposed rules would establish safeguards for disposal of TENORM waste. TENORM is naturally occurring radioactive material with technologically elevated radioactivity. TENORM comes to Montana from the oilfield in North Dakota.
The North Dakota Department of Health hired Argonne National Laboratory to study TENORM in 2013. Argonne used the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s maximum recommended exposure to calculate a safe disposal limit. Argonne recommended 50 picocuries per gram. North Dakota set 50 pCi/gm as the limit starting January 1, 2016.
Montana has guidance but no administrative rules regulating disposal of TENORM. DEQ licensed the Oaks Disposal site in Dawson County that began taking TENORM in June 2013. DEQ licensed more TENORM landfills near Outook and Culbertson, and approved modifications to existing landfill operations in Missoula, Baker, and Great Falls.
North Dakota has no licensed TENORM disposal sites. Almost 80% of the TENORM at Oaks Disposal comes from North Dakota.
Citizens raised concerns and DEQ hired Tetra Tech Inc to study TENORM. Tetra Tech reached the same conclusion as Argonne and recommended the same 50 pCi/gm limit for Montana.
DEQ began writing proposed rules. It formed a stakeholder work group of non-governmental organizations, industry representatives, local government officials, scientists, and informed citizens. Richland County Commissioner Duane Mitchell served on the work group. He promoted standards consistent with neighboring states.
There were many public hearings, miles traveled, work invested, meetings, and legal procedures followed. Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder and Civil Attorney Tom Halvorson testified in Helena for consistency with surrounding states and notice of radioactive spills to protect local EMTs, firefighters, and deputy sheriffs. DEQ received over 2,400 public comments.
In January 2020, DEQ proposed 50 pCi/gm consistent with science, North Dakota’s rule, the work group, and public comments.
Suddenly, the Environmental Quality Council put the proposed rules on its agenda for April 27, 2020. One member of the Council said there was a negotiated deal to quadruple the limit from 50 to 200 pCi/gm. He said he has a real problem with public comment changing that deal. Another member’s remark suggested the deal might be with the Montana Petroleum Association, who wanted 200 pCi/gm.
The Richland County Commission had heard there was criticism of DEQ for giving too much weight to public comment. The Commission commented saying, “That is a strange criticism in a free republic of self-government. We should count ourselves fortunate when any state agency, instead of lording it over the people, listens to us.”
The future of out-of-state radioactive waste will be in the balance at the Council’s May 27-28, 2020 meeting. Citizens should not be discouraged from commenting to retain 50 pCi/gm for our health and safety.
The Environmental Quality Councils needs to live up to its name. For enough Council votes to change, they need to hear from you. Visit EQC Website to learn how you can participate.
For four years, the Board of County Commissioners of Richland County (Duane Mitchell, Loren H. Young, and Shane Gorder) have been in the fight to protect us from the risks of radioactive waste material. The material is called TENORM, an acronym meaning "technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material." In our area, the very great bulk of this material is a solid waste produced in oil and gas development.
The agency that regulates disposal of TENORM in Montana is the Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ began ordinary administrative rulemaking procedures in 2016 to establish rules regulating the disposal in Montana of TENORM waste. Its first set of proposed rules were far looser that neighboring North Dakota. That raised concern about attracting dumping of North Dakota radioactive waste at high levels of radioactivity.
A great deal of public comment was presented to the DEQ. The citizen participation persuaded DEQ to make a major rewrite. DEQ invited and received input from a great variety of people through a host of various channels. It truly became quite a process. Our Commissioners tracked it every step of the way and participated at the key moments when the process provides opportunity. The Commissioners made written comments. Commissioner Shane Gorder and I traveled to Helena to provide oral testimony before a DEQ hearings examiner.
The rewritten proposed rules were much better. We still asked for some additional improvements. The DEQ continued to listen and they made every change we requested. Some of the key changes we supported are:
The Board agrees with the multiple rationales of the department for reducing the maximum acceptance concentration to 50 pCi/g and reducing the gate screening level to 100 µR/hr. The Board lays special stress on providing consistency with how neighboring states, particularly North Dakota, are regulating or plan to regulate TENORM waste. Richland County shares a border with the State of North Dakota. Interstate commerce between Richland County and North Dakota is vigorous. Allowing a maximum acceptance concentration above the 50 pCi/g that North Dakota allows would make Richland County a magnet for dumping hot loads from North Dakota suspected of being above the North Dakota maximum acceptance concentration. Reducing the maximum acceptance concentration to the same level as North Dakota helps prevent Richland County from becoming a target for dumping the worst TENORM waste.
The Department exhibited exemplary sensitivity to the safety interests of local government. For example, I requested an addition to the spill reporting requirements, as follows:
A person who spills TENORM waste and a person who transports TENORM waste for processing or disposal that is spilled for any reason during transport shall as soon as practically possible report the spill to the county coordinator of disaster and emergency services for the county where the spill occurs.
This will allow local DES to alert local government responders that they are responding to a TENORM area. Responders such as EMTs, fire fighters, deputy sheriffs, and DES personnel would have no other way of knowing since there is no requirement that TENORM be placarded in transportation. The Department listened, assimilated the comment and explanation, and they responded with an amendment to the proposed rules.
The Commissioners had everything going our way, but then suddenly this week, somehow an item got placed on the agenda of the Environmental Quality Council for April 27, 2020.
That is short notice.
The agenda items says, verbatim:
2:10 p.m. Proposed radioactive waste rule
That is vague. What is happening, and how did that get onto the agenda? Talk to different people who have been involved these past four years and you will hear different answers. It looks like it could be an attempt by someone to derail the administrative rulemaking process, paralyze that process, and open Montana to new radioactive waste sites where hot loads of radioactive waste from out of state would be dumped, escaping the tighter regulations of the states where the waste originates.
It will be interesting and quite important to see how the hearing before the EQC unfolds this coming week. The Commissioners maintain their vigil and are still in the fight. They have filed a written public comment and have signed up for links to the video conference of the hearing that would let them make oral public comment should that become necessary.
Following is a copy of the public comment they have filed with the Environmental Quality Council dated April 21, 2020.
Following is a copy of the public comment the Commissioners filed March 2, 2020 before the DEQ supporting the DEQ's responsive improvement of the proposed rules.
Following is a copy of the draft agenda that tells you the email address to make your own comment, and how you can connect into the hearing to listen and, should you chose, make oral public comment.
Guidance, directives, and orders of various civil governments are restricting the exercise of religion in various ways. Let’s be plainspoken: As Americans, we don’t like that. To possess all other civic freedoms but not freedom of religion is a state of misery.
Government restrictions are for the sake of saving physical life. Under the Fifth Commandment (You shall not kill), we must be for that. But the physical is not the only realm of human health, life, and death. In this pandemic, there also are matters of spiritual health, life, and death.
Consider a person dying of something completely aside from COVID-19. Consider the devil’s assaults in the hour of death. Confession, Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar are the vaccines effective against the lethal disease of fear, doubt, and condemnation.
In a society of tension between church and state, how can we promote the health and life of citizens in both the physical and spiritual realms? Pandemic or no pandemic, there must be ways to love our neighbors in both realms.
In cyberspace, reactions to the current state of affairs for the church under civil government actions run the gamut from servile and slavish submission to open rebellion. Wherever you fall along that spectrum, I invite you to consider one proposition as still being true: Conflict be between church and state stands a chance of being softened by respectful petition to civil authorities for specific relief.
I have proof.
Clergy in my county asked whether they can visit parishioners who call for them. They want to be able to visit, and they want to obey the law. Good for them.
I read the 10-page directive of the Governor of Montana. There were a couple ways I could string together an argument that these visits, with proper precautions, could be allowed. But I was not sure. We don’t have pandemic emergency orders from the state but once every hundred years or so. The last time was the 1918 Spanish Influenza. These current orders are not ordinary documents, and it is more difficult than usual to be sure of interpretation.
The Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel was one of the presenters of an educational webinar about the pandemic and Montana’s actions to reduce its spread this past Monday morning. If anyone knows what the directive means, it would be him. That raised an opportunity. A person could ask him. What’s the worst that could happen? He could be too busy to answer everyone. He could be the wrong person to ask, and you need to ask someone else. There could be lots of things wrong with it. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
So I reached out Raphael Graybill, Governor Steve Bullock’s Chief Legal Counsel. God bless the Governor and his counsel. He responded personally to my messages. We talked through the scenarios. While this is not a formal legal opinion from him, for the time being, we have an arrangement that works for both church and state, for the government and the governed.
On the following conditions, a pastor in Montana may make pastoral visits:
1. Visits are subject to restrictions of particular venues, such as hospitals and nursing homes, which on their own apart from the Governor’s directive might completely prohibit visits or place restrictions beyond the ones listed here.
2. Use in-person visits only for acts than cannot be done adequately by other means. It is recognized that the administration of the Sacrament of the Altar cannot be done adequately by means other than in-person visit. [Give credit where credit is due. That is pretty decent consideration of the church’s interest by the state.]
3. Do not make physical contact with anyone during a visit.
4. Maintain distance of not less than 6 feet. (Note that some recommendations are for 10 feet. If 10 are feet available, use them.)
5. Wash hands as lately before a visit as possible. Carried-along hand sanitizer probably is best for use just before presenting for a visit.
6. Try not to touch any surfaces or objects (except the elements of the Sacrament and utensils for its administration)
7. Wash hands again shortly following a visit.
8. Take extra precautions around immune-compromised people and people 65 and older.
9. Note that both recommended guidance and enforceable directives and orders are changing on a daily basis. For example, a directive could be issued in the future that when going out of the home people are to wear face masks. Each person must stay up to date and follow current guidance, directives, and orders.
10. Understand that by visiting even one person, you could become a carrier of the disease and later infect others. The risk is not only to yourself becoming ill. It is a risk of you becoming a vector for the spread of the disease. Apply the above precautions strenuously with that in mind.
All in all, this transaction with the civil state on petition for interpretation of the Governor's order as applied to pastoral visits has been perfectly satisfactory. We on the church’s side should not add needlessly to tension with the state. We should not grandstand an issue. We should seek to resolve an issue rather than perpetuate it for some other agenda.
Remember to pray for the Governor of your state.
Whether we like it or not, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of our ordinary freedoms as Americans and Montanans are being restricted, for the good of our neighbors and the community as a whole. This is not unprecedented. I posted an image of the Richland County order restricting freedoms during the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic. (See Richland County: 1918 & 2020 Diseases) In Montana today, the current restrictions are no more severe than they were in 1918. (See Montana Governor's 10-Page Stay Home Order and Exceptions (3-26-2020))
But there are essential things that must go on.
Montana is a republic. Essential to a free republic is the continuation of free elections. Pandemic or no pandemic, somehow we must maintain our free republic by holding the primary election regularly scheduled for June this year.
Under Montana’s election statutes, local government has standing authority to choose an option of mail balloting for certain elections, but not all elections. That option generally does not exist for the regular primary election.
Not to fear. Your local Election Administrator, Stephanie Verhasselt, and your Board of County Commissioners, have been on this job for some time. They saw this issue coming and began early to lead in the maintenance of our free republic.
Verhasselt worked with a variety of other offices in the state toward emergency authority from the Governor that was needed to allow an exceptional method of voting. Then she caused a resolution to be prepared for the Board of County Commissioners to activate the emergency option.
The Board of County Commissioners, after proper legal notice of the item of business by agenda, promptly took up the matter and have adopted an authorizing resolution that will let you vote without congregating dangerously at polling places.
The Richland County Courthouse is on lock-down, but essential work of government goes on, and our free republic is being preserved locally in a variety of ways that perhaps go unnoticed. This action to preserve our right to vote is just one of them.
Below is Resolution 2020-010, “A resolution providing that the 2020 primary election may be conducted by mail ballot and expanded early voting with COVID-19 precautions.”
The Governor of Montana today (March 26, 2020) issued an order requiring Montanans to stay at home — generally.
The order has many exceptions. The order is 10 pages.
The directive is effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 28, 2020 through April 10, 2020
The major headings in the order are:
I. Stay at Home; Social Distancing Requirements; and Essential Businesses and Operations
1. Stay at home or place of residence.
2. Non-essential business and operations to cease.
3. Prohibited activities.
4. Prohibited and permitted travel.
5. Leaving your home for essential activities is permitted.
6. Health Care and Public Health Operations.
7. Human Services Operations.
8. Essential Infrastructure.
9. Governmental Functions.
10. Businesses covered by this Directive.
11. Essential Businesses and Operations.
12. Social Distancing Requirements for Essential Businesses and Operations.
13. Minimum Basic Operations.
14. Essential Travel.
15. Intent of this Directive.
II. Directive Is Public Health Order and Enforceable By County Attorney
III. Local Public Health Agencies to Assist in Administration of this Public Health Order
IV. Less-Restrictive Local Ordinances Preempted
The order fails to recognize as necessary such work as priests and pastors visiting the sick or dying for Confession, Absolution, Extreme Unction, Last Rites, or Sacrament of the Altar. Along those lines, the order no doubt has other blind spots that would come to light with further reflection and experience.
When we were kids, we heard about the epidemic of 1918. My uncle was an infant and died from it. At Stordahl Cemetery, his head stone has a single date. He did not survive to be a year old. My Dad was deathly sick from it, having been born in June 1918, but survived.
Mom and Dad would tell us about the symptoms of Spanish Influenza, measures taken against it, and how widespread it became. For us kids, it was an distant world, too huge and too awful to comprehend.
Today, with conavirus diease (COVID-19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus, so many things are happening so fast that it is difficult to keep up. There is so much contradictory information. Knowing whom to trust is a problem.
For those of us living in Richland County, Montana, Order No. 2 of the Richland County Council of Defense, October 15, 1918 is an interesting piece of history. The text, preserved by the Montana State Historical Society, reads as follows:
Richland County Council of Defense
Large numbers of Richland County people have given public comment about closure of MDU’s Lewis and Clark Station at Sidney. We did this four times to MDU and three times to the Public Service Commission. Richland County Commissioners have filed written public comment. With a few precious exceptions such as PSC Commissioner Randy Pinocci, we have been speaking to people who have plugged their ears. One PSC commissioner has even complained about us being allowed to appear before them.
Public comment is good, but we need to take further steps. With public comment alone, all they do is go through the motions of listening, wait us out at meetings, and go back to Bismarck and Helena as if they never heard a word.
We packed the council chambers at Sidney City Hall on April 25, 2019 when the PSC Commissioner for our district, Randy Pinocci, held a public comment hearing.
We packed the meeting hall of the ag experiment station on July 15, 2019 when MDU hosted a meeting.
County Commissioner Duane Mitchell developed several questions to be addressed by the PSC. Commissioners Loren H. Young and Shane Gorder worked with Mitchell on a unanimous set of questions. As a united Commission, they sent the questions in a letter to the PSC. Their letter resulted in a public comment hearing in Helena on October 29, 2019. We packed the room. It was literally standing room only with more of the crowd spilling through the doorway and into the hall.
Commissioner Pinnocci held another public comment hearing at the Richland County Event Center on February 25, 2020. We provided comment for about three hours. This meeting even drew a candidate for the PSC from a different district, Representative Daniel Zolnikov, House District 47, representing Billing, who commented supporting Richland County.
What has all this voluminous public comment changed? Nothing. Why not? Because they have plugged their ears.
In emails on September 12 and 13, 2019, Public Service Commissioner Roger Koopman complained about us being allowed to appear and give public comment on the letter from our County Commissioners. He zeroed in on the fact that others, like MDU, are parties to their case before the PSC, but none of us in Richland County were parties. As Americans and Montanans, we have the right to citizen participation in the operation of governmental agencies. We have the right to open government, not a closed government denying public comment, not a government complaining about public comment, and not a government of plugged ears.
The complaint by Commissioner Koopman exhibits a profound lack of understanding of basic American civics that every 4-H kid, every Girl Scout, and every graduate of 8th grade knows. He should withdraw from participating in any further proceedings involving Richland County.
We can thank Commissioner Koopman for one thing. He showed us that we need to do something more than give public comment. He made a sharp distinction between public comment by non-parties on the one hand and participation by intervening parties on the other. That is what we need to do. Various parties in Richland County need to intervene as parties in MDU cases to use the rights of parties to obtain real and complete information, to make our case, and clean the wax out of the ears.
The hearing on February 25, 2020 ended on an excellent note when James Brower was on a roll laying out what we need to do and likening this struggle with the struggle of Richland County during the irrigation case in federal court. On all counts, James is correct.
Our sons, Leif and Cedric, perform a repertoire fur trade era and other 19th century music. They dress in period-appropriate clothing and play on era-authentic guitar, banjo, bones, and other instruments. Between songs they give spoken historical explanations. They perform as Eric and Arty of the Upper Missouri.
This takes them to a variety of venues where the history of those eras is being preserved and re-enacted. In one instance, western artist C. Michael Dudash was present for an informal evening around a campfire. He made Leif the subject of a new work of art, titled "Six Stringer." The work is oil on linen, 16" h x 12" w, dated 2/9/17.
The March-April 2019 issue of Art of the West features it on the cover. Dudash says, page 9,
As a lifelong musician -- guitar, piano, mandolin -- it's only natural that paintings of pickers and players would be of special interest to me. The banjo is one of the truly original American instruments and comes with either four, five, or six strings and is strummed and played in several different ways. The six string is probably the rarest. I've seen only a couple in my day, and I actually had one several years back. I tuned it like a guitar. Painting old timers by campfire light is always challenging, but loads of fun."
The cover story by Sara Gilbert Frederick is about Dudash, titled "I’ll Never Retire; I’ll Always Paint."
Debra Gilbert, Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator, and I were privileged to be presenters at the Emergency Management Forum in Helena at the beginning of this month.
The Forum is organized by the Montana Department of Military Affairs, Disaster and Emergency Services Division. It brings together people working in a wide variety of organizations and roles to provide disaster and emergency services. There were people from all across Montana, from state agencies, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, from the North Dakota DES, from private relief agencies, and from industry.
The Forum was held for 3 days. Debra and I presented on Day 2. The theme of that day was Mutual Aid. I presented a paper that I wrote for the Forum titled, “Guide to Montana Mutual Aid Statutes .” Montana has over a dozen mutual aid statutes, and this has been a source for confusion and obstacles in achieving mutual aid during disasters and emergencies. My presentation surveyed the many statutes and simplified the process of using the right statute in the right way to make mutual aid happen.
Debra led a panel discussion on mutual aid, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” The discussion was of a very practical, rubber-meets-the-road nature and engaged the Forum with actual real-world examples. The session was especially helpful because, like so many when they first take on DES positions in county government, at first she says she had little idea what she was supposed to do. She charted a course for digging in, discovering the role, forming networks, and making mutual aid happen.
Unlike many such meetings, this Forum was productive in that we accumulated a list of action points and projects to pursue. Debra and I are working on interstate mutual aid agreement templates which can be so important to our own county because we are right on the border with North Dakota. We also learned the value of assembling an inventory of disaster and emergency assets for ourselves and to share with neighboring counties and the state DES.
Art Of The West
China Virus Disease
Church And State
C Michael Dudash
Disaster And Emergency Services
Environmental Quality Council
Eric And Artie Of The Upper Missouri
Eric Of The Upper Missouri
Fort Union Muzzleloaders
Lewis & Clark Station
Loren H. Young
Montana Association Of Counties
Montana Dakota Utilities
Montana Infrastructure Coalition
Public Service Commission
Richland County Commissioners