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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Sierra Club Loses Bid to Stop Radioactive Waste

EL PASO, Texas (CN) - A west Texas disposal facility will keep receiving radioactive waste after a state appeals court refused to let the Sierra Club seek injunctive relief.

Andrews County Judge Martin Muncy had tied the group's hands with a temporary restraining order amid claims that it had interfered with the county's lease agreement with a Waste Control Specialists disposal facility in Andrews County.

In a June 2012 complaint, the county said Sierra had filed other suits in Travis County, threatening to seek an injunction to stop the shipment of low-level radioactive waste to the facility.

The Court of Appeals' Eighth District of Texas stayed enforcement of the restraining until resolution of this proceeding, which concluded Wednesday with another decision for the county.

Waste Control first applied with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2004, seeking approval for the construction of the facility.

Five years later, that commission denied Sierra's request for a contested case hearing and granted the construction application.

A Travis County court later reversed, but the commission is appealing that decision along with Waste Control Specialists.

That same court is also considering a challenge Sierra filed that same month over transportation of such waste to the facility.

In its petition for a writ of mandamus, Sierra argued the TRO is void because it failed to include a"reasonable explanation of the immediate and irreparable injury."

It also says mandatory venue exists in Travis County, and that the restraining order interferes with jurisdiction of the Travis County Court and 3rd Court of Appeals.

The court concluded, however, that the issues were largely moot because the TRO expired on July 23.

Though Sierra Club insisted that the appellate court's stay overcame that expiration, this argument failed to sway the judges

"Our order expressly stayed 'enforcement' of the TRO but we did not suspend the expiration of the order," Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote for the court. "Indeed we question whether an appellate court can stay the expiration of a TRO which will expire by its terms or operation of law on a date certain."

Although Sierra cannot rely on an exception to the mootness doctrine, it may still be able to find relief, according to the ruling/

"Both parties acknowledge that Andrews County will move forward with a hearing on its request for a temporary injunction which, whether granted or denied, is subject to interlocutory appeal," McClure wrote.

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