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Court Backs Limits on Toxic Waste Storage

(CN) - The Department of Energy can't keep untreated hazardous waste at the Hanford facility in Washington state indefinitely, the 9th Circuit ruled.

The state sued DOE for shipping waste to the Hanford facility for storage pending future disposal at an underground site in New Mexico.

DOE argued that once the Secretary of Energy designates waste disposal, it is not obligated to limit the time it is stored at Hanford or any other location.

The district court rejected DOE's argument, finding that the "designation exemption" only applied to the New Mexico facility, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

Judge Paez of the San Francisco-based federal appeals court upheld the decision, citing the location of the phrase "with respect to WIPP" in the amended Hazardous Waste Management Act.

"The logical consequence of Congress' action is that the wastes not at WIPP continue to be prohibited from one or more methods of land disposal," Paez wrote, "and that the land disposal restrictions, including the storage prohibition, apply at those locations."

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