February 28, 2000
Comments of Eureka County, Nevada
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository
for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste
at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada
(U.S. Department of Energy, July 1999)
A. Impacts of Transportation Aspects of Proposed Action
A. Purpose and Need for Agency Action (Chapter 1)
Impacts Analyais (Specific Resource Issues)
H. Cumulative Impacts (Chapter 8)
I. Mitigation (Chapter 9)
J. Required Federal Permits, Licenses, and Entitlements (Chapter 11)
Board of County Commissioners
February 28, 2000
Wendy R. Dixon, EIS Project Manager
RE: Comments to Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada
Dear Ms. Dixon:
Attached are the comments of the Board of Eureka County Commissioners regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada.
We are submitting these comments as an "affected unit of local government" pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act as amended, and in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Our comments consist of the attached document, together with several exhibits. One of our exhibits is the videotape of the DOE's Draft EIS hearings in Crescent Valley, Eureka County, Nevada on December 9, 1999. Please make the enclosed five (5) videotapes and their contents, including the question and answer sessions, part of our official comments. Our purpose in submitting detailed comments and the videotapes is to ensure that DOE has a full understanding of Eureka County's concerns about the proposed Yucca Mountain project and the Draft EIS.
We believe that the DEIS is lacking in many areas. Of obvious concern is that DOE has stated in the EIS that decisions about mode, route and corridors would be made based only on the information in the EIS. This information is insufficient for decision making. Eureka County is calling upon the DOE to issue a new draft EIS which would provide the detailed information now lacking. It is also essential that the new draft be available for public comment and subject to public hearings.
Eureka County is requesting that DOE meet with affected units of local government to discuss how the Department intends to revise the DEIS in response to local government comments. Such a meeting will provide DOE with the opportunity to confirm their understanding of the local government comments before completing the revised DEIS.
Should you have questions or need information concerning these comments, please contact Leonard Fiorenzi at 775/237-5372 or Abby Johnson at 775/882-0296.
III. SUMMARY AND REQUIRED ACTIONS
I. GENERAL COMMENTS
A. Impacts of Transportation Aspects of Proposed Action
Disclosure inadequate. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)* does not include enough information to support a decision on modes, routes, or corridors for the transportation of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW). Specifically, the document contains inadequate information for a decision to select the Carlin rail corridor (which would pass through Eureka County) or any other mode, route, or corridor.
The DEIS must disclose that potential transportation impacts of the proposed action would be concentrated in Nevada and could result in numerous environmental impacts, as discussed later in this document. The DEIS must not only disclose the potential environmental impacts for shipments along the five rail corridors, the heavy-haul truck routes, and I-15 in southern Nevada, but also for any alternative Nevada routes that would be used during system repair, maintenance, and construction; during weather emergencies; or for the mostly legal-weight truck scenario.
The DEIS omits essential information regarding the affected environment and the anticipated environmental impacts. It must specifically identify and describe: (1) the national transportation routes over which SNF and HLW would travel to Yucca Mountain and (2) the main national transportation nodes and the numbers of shipments that would pass through them. Since computer models used to prepare the DEIS contain such information, the DEIS should have disclosed it so that the public would have a full opportunity to review and comment upon it.
The DEIS must specifically consider the impacts of the transportation elements of the proposed action upon the nation’s and Nevada’s transportation systems. It must, for example, analyze impacts upon transportation systems of: (1) an accident involving radiation release on main national routes, (2) storage of rail cars carrying SNF and HLW on rail sidings for extended periods of time, and (3) routing of dedicated trains subject to speed restrictions.
Analysis must not be postponed. Although the Department of Energy (DOE) says it does not know when it will make the transportation decision, transportation is integral to the project and must be fully covered in the DEIS. Disclosures of transportation impacts must not be postponed
to a later date. In addition, future decisions must not rely on the sketchy, inadequate information contained in the DEIS. Although the potential for environmental impacts from the transportation aspects of the proposed action is as great as for the repository itself, the analysis of transportation impacts is sadly lacking in depth and quality.
Emergency Response. The DEIS fails to adequately analyze potential impacts on local governments for emergency response activities related to shipments of SNF and HLW. It fails to describe baseline conditions for emergency response services, and lacks any meaningful discussion of emergency response needs or capabilities as they relate to local governments. The DEIS must address the availability and capabilities of emergency response services, existing and required.
Also, the DEIS does not adequately analyze increased exposure of and health risks to emergency first responders to transportation accidents. Local emergency personnel are likely to be the first to respond to transportation incidents. A wide range of response capabilities (i.e., personnel, training, equipment, and policies) exist along transportation routes nationally and in Nevada.
Environmental justice. The DEIS inadequately analyzes the project impacts in relation to environmental justice in Nevada as well as nationally. It relies on outdated census data for Nevada, and concludes that impacts to minority and low income persons will not be disproportionately adverse. Eureka County disagrees, since persons who reside in rural areas are often of lower income. Because of the nature of rural life, communities are dispersed, rather than concentrated. Given the limited political power of rural communities, they are often targeted for unwanted projects--projects that are dangerous, hazardous, and that no other area would tolerate.
The Yucca Mountain repository is an excellent example of this type of "justice." The DOE’s risk models are based on avoiding urban areas, and presume that risks from the project should be borne by rural people.
Eureka County understands the President’s Executive Order (February 16, 1994) to mean that the DOE should consider the effects of past programs and policies on communities, as well as the additional impacts of the Yucca Mountain project. Especially regarding public health impacts from exposure to radiation, the DOE must go beyond the minimal analysis in the DEIS. Rural low income populations received damaging doses of radiation in the 1950s and 1960s from above-ground and underground nuclear weapons tests conducted by the DOE’s predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission. The DOE must take these disproportionately high adverse health and environmental impacts of its programs, policies, and activities into consideration.
B. Purpose and Need
The DEIS is confusing and misleading as to the future generation of SNF and HLW. In the discussion of the no-action alternative, the DEIS says that all nuclear power plants will be closed by 2116 (p. 7-28), that decommissioning will occur in 2052 (p. 7-29), and that nuclear power plants would be closed after the first 20-year license renewal period (pp. 7-43 and -44). The cumulative impact analysis considers SNF generated until the year 2046, and says that Modules 1 and 2 represent "all" projected SNF and HLW (p. 8-5). No such statements are made regarding the proposed action.
If the DOE proposes to close all commercial nuclear power plants by a certain year, this must be explicitly stated as part of the proposed action. Otherwise, both the proposed action and the no-project alternative must consider SNF and HLW generated after that year. As presently written, the analysis of the proposed action does not account for 35,000 tons of SNF and HLW generated through 2046, over and above 70,000 tons that would be placed at Yucca Mountain. Nor does the DEIS account for SNF and HLW generated after 2046. Because of these errors, the DEIS greatly underestimates the costs of the proposed action (see Table 2-5) and its environmental impacts.
C. No-Action Alternative
No-action alternative dismissed. The DEIS must include a realistic no-action alternative. The DEIS says repeatedly that the no-action scenarios are unlikely and unreasonable, yet it says they provide a baseline for comparison. The no-action alternative is simply the absence of the proposed action; it must be described fully and analyzed fairly using consistent assumptions regarding institutional controls and all other relevant factors.
Affected environment not described. According to the DEIS (p. 3-140), the description of the affected environment for the no-action alternative "describes the affected environment that reflect [sic] the average or mean conditions of the sites." For this purpose, "average" conditions mean nothing and provide no information that a person could use to evaluate the no-action alternative. The DOE (presumably) knows, and must disclose, the existing conditions in the vicinity of the sites that generate SNF and HLW. Without a description of the affected environment, no meaningful analysis of anticipated impacts is possible.
D. Anticipated Environmental Impacts
Regions of influence arbitrarily drawn. The DEIS does not explain the rationale for its definitions of the regions of influence in various impact areas. Until reasons for these definitions are provided, the choices are arbitrary. The proposed action is not a conventional federal action. It has the potential to affect almost every state for hundreds of future generations. Therefore, the DOE must consider regions of influence carefully and draw them broadly. For example, air pollution and radiological regions of influence must include areas downwind from Yucca Mountain and from all potential transportation corridors in Nevada and elsewhere.
For a unique, unprecedented federal action that would affect 43 states for an extremely long time, the DEIS fails to identify adequate impact mitigation. Among other needs, the mitigation program must include compensation for takings of private property rights, as required by the Constitution of the United States. It must also include a special trust or escrow account for prompt and complete compensation to persons affected by radiation along transportation routes, as well as a baseline health assessment to enable the identification of such effects.
The DOE has failed to cooperate and consult adequately with federal agencies, specifically the Navy, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Surface Transportation Board, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It has not consulted adequately with the railroad industry. The regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) require such consultation.
Appendix C, Interagency and Intergovernmental Interactions, summarizes the DOE’s consultations in relation to this DEIS. The DOE correctly identifies the many interests of the BLM, including land withdrawal, management of land for transportation corridors, and rights-of-way and easements for transportation. Eureka County notes that the comments of the Secretary of the Interior must be included with the Secretary of Energy’s recommendations to the President. Despite the BLM’s major role, the DOE met with the BLM only once, on September 15, 1998, and only to brief them. This is an inadequate and unacceptable level of consultation.
The DEIS reflects that the DOE has not gathered the kinds of information it needs from the BLM and the USFS to analyze the rail routes, specifically, in a comprehensive manner. The lack of ongoing consultation with the BLM is evident. Significantly, the DEIS summary does not indicate that the DOE received any information from the BLM.
Table C-1 also indicates there was no consultation or interaction with the Federal Highway Administration or the Federal Railroad Administration, both of which should be consulted about a national shipping campaign spanning 24 years and 43 states. There is no mention of interaction with other non-governmental organizations who have specialized information, such as railroad and trucking trade associations.
Two federal offices notably absent from the consultation are the FAA and the U.S. Navy. Although the DEIS says the DOE consulted with the Air Force on land use and airspace impacts, the DOE did not consult with the Navy or with the FAA, which oversees airspace restrictions. The Fallon Naval Air Station’s most recent environmental documents indicate that now and in the foreseeable future, lands being considered for rail routes are also being selected for Navy overflight areas (where there is a risk of ordnance and aircraft parts falling to the ground) and for the installation of fixed and mobile equipment. The lack of consultation with the Navy is a significant oversight and (as discussed later in this document) the DEIS fails to disclose the cumulative impacts of the DOE’s and the Navy’s actions.
G. Other General Comments
Procedural Issues. The DEIS, which is inadequate in very many respects, creates difficult legal and procedural issues for Eureka County, especially since the DOE says it will rely on this inadequate disclosure to make transportation-related decisions. The DEIS does not provide enough information to support a decision on transportation modes, routes, or corridors, nor does it provide essential information regarding available administrative remedies. Thus, the DEIS violates the principle of due process.
Regarding the transportation elements of the proposed action, the DEIS must specifically disclose: (1) the identity of all federal approvals that DOE or its agents must obtain to construct and operate those elements, as required by 40 CFR 1502.25(b), (2) the steps the DOE will follow to satisfy the requirements of NEPA, and (3) the procedural requirements Eureka County must satisfy to protect its legal rights to appeal each required federal approval and each action of the DOE under NEPA.
Since the DEIS is inadequate in so many respects, the DOE must issue a new, revised DEIS and give the public new opportunities to comment, including public hearings. If, despite the inadequacies of the DEIS, the DOE decides to proceed with the preparation of a FEIS at this time, Eureka County reserves the right to make additional comments before the final decision, as provided for in 40 CFR 1503.1(b).
Bias. Both in general approach and specific language, the DEIS reflects a bias toward implementation of the proposed action. It dismisses the no-action alternative, includes many unsupported conclusions, and either writes off or postpones analysis of important impacts. Numerous examples of biased language (e.g., "permanent isolation," "useful information," "detailed descriptions") can be cited.
Pending standards and changing guidelines. The disclosure of the DEIS is seriously flawed because it does not address the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA’s) pending standards for protecting public health and safety in relation to a repository at Yucca Mountain. The disclosure also fails to address the DOE’s decision to amend its repository siting guidelines during the comment period on the DEIS. Both of these flaws present the public with a moving target and contradict the concept of due process.
Summary tables. The DEIS fails to include summary tables showing, for example, latent cancer fatalities (LCFs) for all alternatives and scenarios in one table, using consistent units. In Volume I alone, the reader must consider over 700 pages of text and almost 300 tables, making summary-level comparisons difficult if not impossible.
Additional comments and information. See Exhibit B for additional comments on the DEIS submitted by Eureka County property owners presently residing outside Eureka County. See Exhibit C for a list of reference materials specific to Eureka County, to which the DOE should refer during preparation of a revised DEIS.
II. SPECIFIC COMMENTS
A. Purpose and Need for Agency Action (Chapter 1)
Research and development. The DEIS does not adequately consider the effects of future research and development (R&D) activities on the need for the proposed action. For example, the DEIS says that development of new technology is not included in the no-action alternative because it is speculative. (p. 1-21) There are many speculative aspects of the proposed action, and development of such technology as transmutation could reduce or eliminate the need for a geologic repository, with its numerous attendant costs and impacts.
Perceived risk. The DOE decided not to analyze risk perception and stigmatization issues raised during the scoping process for the DEIS. (p. 1-23) However, a perception that the geologic repository would make Nevada less desirable for tourists or business strikes at the heart of Nevada’s tourism-based economy. Similarly, a perception that transportation corridors for SNF and HLW make adjoining private property less safe or less valuable threatens to degrade the fiscal health of local governments, such as Eureka County. Clearly, such perceptions are real and can have real economic effects. Note, for example, that the brownfields programs of the USEPA and many individual states exist largely to counteract the perceived risk of site contamination by hazardous materials, which deters investment and wastes valuable resources.
For the Clinch River, TN, monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility, the DEIS identifies concerns and potentially negative impacts on business recruitment and expansion, residential recruitment and retention, tourism, aesthetics, and other issues. (p. 7-2) The DEIS says these are "relevant environmental considerations" regarding the no-project alternative. (p. 7-1) As already noted, the DOE decided not to analyze risk perception in the case of the proposed action. The DOE’s explanation of this decision is inadequate, and the DEIS should analyze perceived risk for this unconventional and unprecedented project.
Related Environmental Documents. The list of related environmental documents in Table 1-1 (pp. 1-25 to 1-27) is extremely narrow with respect to the transportation aspects of the proposed action. The DOE has failed to utilize a vast body of available environmental documentation on land use, mining, wildlife, wild horses, public lands, agriculture, and other topics of particular concern to Eureka County. Nor does Table 1-1 include an important recent NEPA document, the FEIS, Proposed Fallon Range Training Complex Requirements, Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada (Department of the Navy and Bureau of Land Management, January 2000). Through consultation with the Navy and the BLM, the DOE should have been aware of this FEIS. Finally, the Cortez Pipeline Gold Deposit project is located in east central Nevada, not western Nevada, as stated on p. 1-27.
B. Proposed Action (Chapter 2)
Description of proposed action is vague. The DEIS fails to describe the proposed action in sufficient detail to allow a meaningful analysis of impacts and mitigation. The descriptions of decontamination (pp. 2-20, 2-37), upgrades to electrical transmission and distribution systems (p. 2-23), future institutional controls and intrusion barriers (p. 2-37), national shipping routes (pp. 2-40 to 2-42), proposed rail operations (pp. 2-43, 2-44, 2-50), and rail line access roads and fences (p. 2-50) are vague or missing altogether.
Description of rail facilities and operations vague, incomplete. Because the Carlin rail corridor would pass directly through Eureka County, because the effects of such a corridor could affect the livelihoods of numerous residents, and because the DOE says a decision will be based on this DEIS, a complete description of the proposed action is important to Eureka County. (pp. 2-43 to 2-50) The maps of transportation routes in Nevada are so small that they created confusion in public meetings in the County. For example, attendees could not tell from the map on p. 2-48 which side of the Crescent Valley town site the rail line would be on.
In October 1998, the DOE provided Eureka County with rail alignment maps prepared by a
contractor, at a scale of one centimeter equals one kilometer. It is the County’s understanding that these maps were the basis of much of the rail corridor information in the DEIS. However, the maps in the DEIS (pp. 2-48, 6-59) are different and, therefore, misleading. (See Exhibit D for a map prepared by Eureka County from one provided by the DOE in October 1998.)
The DEIS also leaves many unanswered questions, such as:
The DEIS attempts to describe the proposed action’s rail line operations using generalized statements. (p. 2-50) These statements do not provide enough detail. The operational aspects of the branch rail lines will have a substantial influence on the hazards and risks associated with a decision regarding alternative rail corridors and transportation modes. Those aspects of rail operations that directly influence safety must be included to determine whether there are discernable differences among alternatives.
Clearly, how the rail lines are operated will increase or decrease the risks involved in rail transport of SNF and HLW. Procedures to ensure safety of shipments, workers, the public, and emergency response personnel must be described. These include, but are not limited to, safety and security at switching points, safety and security for shipments parked on sidings, safety provisions, and emergency actions including emergency response for accidents.
The description of rail line operations (p. 2-50) does not include operational provisions for emergency response to accidents where local capabilities are limited or nonexistent. The description lacks any substantive information on provisions for safe rail operations in light of the extensive area within Nevada that lacks response capabilities for radiological incidents.
Finally, the DEIS says that the Southern Pacific Railroad owns one of the northern routes and the Union Pacific Railroad owns the other northern route and the southern route. (p. 2-44) It is our understanding that the Union Pacific now owns both northern routes, and the Burlington Northern has shipping privileges on the northern route.
Timing of repository and rail corridor closure unclear. The DEIS says that closure of the repository could occur from 50 to 300 years after the start of emplacement. The DEIS fails, however, to describe whether and how the rail corridors would be used during the monitoring phase, up to 300 years long. Would the rail corridor continue to carry supplies and waste materials to and from the repository? Would the corridor continue to operate for the benefit of other users? Who would own, operate, and maintain the tracks and access roads?
Impacts of transportation alternatives pre-judged. Before the DEIS even describes the proposed action, the environment that would be affected, or the anticipated environmental impacts, it concludes that "environmental impacts do not appear to be a major factor in the selection of transportation mode, route, or corridor in Nevada for incoming rail shipments." (p. 2-81) Such a conclusion is inappropriate under the description of the proposed action and no-action alternative and, in any event, is unsupported by any evidence and therefore conclusory. The DEIS acknowledges that there are differences in environmental impacts for the 10 implementing alternatives for rail shipments in Nevada.
Natural complexity no excuse for incomplete disclosure. The DEIS says that the complexity and variability of the natural system at Yucca Mountain contribute to the uncertainty associated with the DEIS. (p. 2-81) All natural systems are complex and variable, and the discussion on page 2-81 is irrelevant. The DOE must, to the best of its ability, describe the proposed action, the affected environment, the anticipated impacts, and the required mitigation. For such a large, unconventional, and far reaching project as the geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, the level of effort required of the DOE is very high. To date, the disclosures provided are vague, incomplete, and inadequate.
Preferred alternative. The DEIS says that the DOE has not chosen a preferred transportation mode, corridor, or route; that it does not know when it will make such decisions; but that the DEIS provides the information necessary to make those decisions. (pp. 2-87, -88) As discussed under the general comments:
Regarding the transportation aspects of the proposed action, the DEIS fails to satisfy the purpose of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as expressed in 40 CFR 1500.1(b), because it: fails to make environmental information available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and actions are taken; fails to present information of high quality; and, therefore, does not allow accurate scientific analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny, which are essential to implementing NEPA.
C. Affected Environment (Chapter 3)
Justification lacking for regions of influence. The descriptions in the DEIS of the affected environment and the anticipated impacts utilize a list of "regions of influence." (pp. 3-2, 3-10, 3-79, 3-98, 3-101) However, the DEIS provides little or no justification or explanation regarding the definitions of these regions. For such an unconventional project, with such great risks, the DOE must consider the regions of influence carefully and draw them broadly. Specifically, the 80-km radius around Yucca Mountain, which defines the region of influence for air, climate, and health and safety (p. 3-3) is unsupported, appears to ignore information on prevailing winds and atmospheric transport, and prevents a full evaluation of the repository’s air quality impacts on the Las Vegas Valley. The limitations on the air quality, climate, cultural resource, and health and safety regions of influence for rail corridors are also unsupported and inappropriate.
"Affected units of local government" not accurately defined. The DEIS says that "affected units of local government include county governments near the potential repository site and along potential transportation routes within Nevada." (p. 3-1) Appendix C says, "As defined by the NWPA, the affected units of local government are local governments (counties) with jurisdiction over the site of a repository." (p. C-9) Neither definition is accurate. DOE has interpreted Section 116 of the NWPA as amended to mean that the affected units of government are Nye County (the situs county) and the nine counties contiguous to Nye County. The definition on p. 3-1 is misleading because there are Nevada counties along potential transportation routes that are not considered "affected" counties under the NWPA, e.g., Elko County. The definition on p. C-9 is misleading because it is circular. Finally, the DEIS should acknowledge the special legal status of "affected units of local government" under the NWPA.
Environment affected by transportation not described. The fact that the DEIS requires less than two pages to describe the environment that would be affected by the national transportation elements of the proposed action and by the mostly legal-weight truck scenario in Nevada illustrates the complete inadequacy of the DEIS in this regard. (pp. 3-98, -99) For a long-term, unconventional activity that could very seriously affect the vast majority of the states and a large percentage of the population of the United States, the DEIS tells nothing about the affected environment other than the broadest of generalities. Thus, the DEIS fails to satisfy the purpose of NEPA, as expressed in 40 CFR 1500.1(c), since it does not "help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment."
The land use descriptions for the rail corridors in Nevada are inadequate. (p. 3-101 to -103) The land use regions of influence are narrowly drawn (limited only to disturbed lands and changes in ownership), and the only information provided for the Carlin corridor (for example) is the amount of public and private land. Although the DEIS says that "detailed information on land use is available" in other documents, it fails to describe their contents even briefly, as required by 40 CFR 1502.21. According to testimony before the DOE at the Crescent Valley public hearing on December 9, 1999, the description in the DEIS of existing land uses is inadequate and inaccurate. On page 6-61, the DEIS names two towns, Gold Acres and Tenabo, that are not presently inhabited, witnesses said.
The socio-economic descriptions for the environment that would be affected by rail corridors in Nevada are equally inadequate. The DEIS does not contain a complete or accurate description of baseline socioeconomic information for the affected counties. Although more recent population data are available from Nevada’s State Demographer (Exhibit E), the DEIS uses out-of-date population data. Furthermore, the socio-economic description of Eureka County discloses only: the average unemployment rate, per capita income, population, and population density for a single year, projected population for the year 2000, and the total and occupied numbers of housing units. (pp. 3-114, -115) The DEIS should discuss Eureka County’s demographic data, economic drivers and trends, local fiscal conditions, cost of living, work force issues, and economic development plans. An example of a more adequate socio-economic description can be found in the South Pipeline Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, August 1999), at pp. 4-181 to 4-211.
Since the DOE says that the DEIS is adequate to support a decision on transportation modes, routes, and corridors, the concerns of Eureka County are especially great. The DEIS implies that the affected environment is sparsely populated, lightly used, and not important. To the contrary, the resource-based economy of Eureka County and other Nevada counties depends almost entirely on the land and its mineral and biological resources.
Emergency response environment not described. The DEIS must describe the availability and capability of emergency responders who would respond to transportation accidents. (p. 3-115) There is no description of emergency response planning or capabilities nationally, statewide, or locally in regard to any alternative rail corridor or transportation route.
Nevada’s rural areas have extremely limited or no capability for initial response to accidents involving SNF and HLW. Since shipments will be funneled into Nevada, creating a higher risk for accidents, the emergency response capabilities must be described as part of the affected environment. Emergency services are an essential part of local public services and must not be overlooked, given the nature of the proposed project and the associated accident risks. A complete characterization of available emergency services and response capabilities must cover local law enforcement, fire, rescue, and emergency medical services.
Additionally, the public services information is incorrect and misleading regarding the availability and locations of hospitals. (p. 3-115) The DEIS implies that small communities in Nevada generally contain hospitals, which is incorrect. Most small communities in Nevada and specifically in Eureka and Esmeralda Counties do not have hospitals. There is no hospital in Eureka, Crescent Valley, Beowawe, Carlin, or Austin. The nearest hospitals are Elko General Hospital and Battle Mountain General Hospital.
Furthermore, the hospital information is incomplete and misleading since it does not describe the capabilities for treating radiological or other emergency patients. The general statement that public services are located in communities does not provide the necessary detail. If hospitals or other emergency services do not have the capability to treat patients injured in accidents involving SNF or HLW, this information must be disclosed in the DEIS.
Other comments. Ongoing seismic hazard studies being conducted for the Yucca Mountain region by the University of Nevada should be completed before DOE makes a decision whether to recommend Yucca Mountain for a geologic repository. (p. 3-30) The DEIS should cite the underlying data source for the population statistics in Table 3-22 (p. 3-73) and compare the statistics to current population estimates available from Nevada’s state demographer. (See Exhibit E.) The discussion of radiation health effects must include the identification of sensitive population groups, such as infants and pregnant women. (pp. 3-79 to -83) Finally, the DEIS contains no information on noxious weeds, a very significant environmental problem throughout Nevada and the western U.S.
D. Environmental Impacts of the Repository (Chapter 4)
Impacts on land use not adequately addressed. Largely due to arbitrary limits on the region of influence, the DEIS does not adequately address land use impacts within Clark, Nye, and Lincoln Counties. (pp. 4-4, -5) The DEIS does not discuss whether the repository would accelerate land development by stimulating the economy or, alternatively, reduce the rate of development due to perceived risk and stigmatization.
Impacts on air quality not adequately addressed. Because the analysis of air quality impacts focuses only on pollutant concentrations at the boundary of the land withdrawal area, the DEIS does not adequately address possible air pollution impacts on Clark County and other areas. (pp. 4-6, -7, -102) The DEIS must disclose whether the bulk emissions documented in Appendix G would aggravate existing air quality problems in Clark County and elsewhere. According to newspaper reports in January, 2000, Clark County may soon face federal sanctions regarding funding of new transportation projects as a result of continuing problems attaining state and federal air quality standards.
The DEIS must also disclose the predicted downwind concentrations of radiological and nonradiological air pollutants, and the maximum distance at which measurable concentrations could be detected. Eureka County needs to know whether airborne emissions from the repository could be carried to Eureka County and neighboring counties, as they were during nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s.
DEIS assumes public service impacts evenly distributed. The analysis of public service impacts of the repository (p. 4-44) is unsupported. The DEIS assumes that population growth and, therefore, demands for public services would be evenly distributed throughout Clark County and southern Nye County. Realistically, impacts will be concentrated in those areas within close commuting distance of Yucca Mountain, creating larger public service impacts with their associated costs.
Other comments. The DEIS fails to address the repository’s impacts on the spread of noxious weeds. The DEIS underestimates the difficulty of storing topsoil, returning it to a site, and revegetating disturbed areas in Nevada’s arid climate. (p. 4-23) The discussion of the floodplain and wetlands assessment of transportation options (p. 4-24) is in the wrong section of the DEIS. The information on land exchanges in Clark County (p. 4-43) is incorrect, and it fails to consider that land supply is only one of the factors affecting housing conditions. Finally, the discussion of electric power (pp. 4-70 to 4-72) belongs in the description of the affected environment, and fails to address the impacts of power line construction or modification.
E. Long-term Environmental Impacts of the Repository
Population assumptions unreasonable. Despite the recommendations of the National Research Council, it seems unreasonable to assume that population in the general vicinity of Yucca Mountain would remain at its present locations and densities for thousands of years. (pp. 5-1, -17) A more cautious approach would be to assume that future population levels will be larger, more dense, and closer to Yucca Mountain than they are today.
Planned studies should be completed first. To provide an adequate disclosure of the impacts of the proposed action, which is a large and unconventional project with high risks, the DEIS should incorporate the results of planned studies on: (1) the influence of temperature differences on water movement, (2) the influence of heat on the chemical environment, (3) the importance of vapor transport processes, and (4) currently unavailable data. (pp. 5-10, -13, -18) The DOE should not make a recommendation on a Yucca Mountain repository until these studies are complete.
F. Environmental Impacts of Transportation
National transportation impacts. As discussed under the general comments in this document, the DEIS fails to analyze impacts upon the national transportation system from accidents on main national routes, storage of SNF and HLW on rail sidings for up to 48 hours (or longer), and routing of dedicated trains subject to speed restrictions. The DEIS must specifically describe the national transportation routes over which SNF and HLW would travel, and identify the main national nodes and the numbers of shipments which would pass through them.
Nevada transportation impacts. As discussed earlier in this document, the DEIS does not include adequate information for a decision to select the Carlin rail corridor or any other mode, route, or corridor. The generic discussion of impacts common to Nevada rail implementing alternatives (pp. 6-43 to 6-52) is excessively vague, consisting mainly of a list of possible impacts, which are then dismissed. The DEIS must specifically disclose potential environmental impacts for all Nevada routes, including alternative routes that might be used during system repair, maintenance, and construction; during weather emergencies; or for the mostly legal-weight truck scenario in accordance with the following comments (which are listed alphabetically):
1. Impacts on Agriculture
The DEIS fails to analyze impacts of the proposed action on agriculture in Nevada and specifically Eureka County. Many residents of Eureka County depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service administer numerous grazing allotments that are leased to ranchers in Eureka County and neighboring counties. The DEIS says that the Carlin corridor would cross 12 allotments, that construction of the rail line would require "conversion of land" within those allotments, but that "functionality" would not be affected. (p. 6-61) These statements are vague and unsupported by any evidence.
The DEIS must disclose the impacts upon Eureka County agriculture of: (1) conversion of water rights or agricultural land to other uses, (2) fragmentation of range or grazing allotments, (3) damage to forage from land disturbance, introduction of weeds, increased wildfire, or other factors, (4) restrictions on livestock movement, (5) loss of water supplies, or restricted access to water supplies, (6) loss of livestock hit by trains or other motor vehicles, and the associated public safety implications, (7) changes in value of agricultural lands or permits, (8) changes in the costs of agricultural production, and (9) increases in harassment of livestock. The impact analysis must address both construction and operation of fences, water wells, the railroad bed and tracks, and access roads along and perpendicular to the tracks. The DEIS must also disclose whether fragmentation of grazing allotments or changes in values of agricultural lands and associated appurtenances would be a taking of private property rights requiring compensation under the Constitution of the United States.
Regarding fences, testimony at the public hearing before the DOE at Crescent Valley on December 9, 1999, indicated that numerous railroad right-of-way fences were destroyed during recent range fires in Eureka County and neighboring counties, and that requests by the Board of Eureka County Commissioners to the railroads to repair the fences have not been filled. Thus, the DEIS must disclose how fences will be maintained, as well as the possible impacts on agriculture from poorly maintained right-of-way fences.
2. Impacts on Air Quality
The DEIS fails to adequately analyze impacts of the proposed action on air quality in Nevada and Eureka County. (pp. 6-9, -36) Appendix G, Air Quality, does not address transportation-related impacts at all. Residents of Eureka County benefit from excellent air quality conditions that could be affected by the proposed action. The DEIS says that air emissions would affect a very large area (p. 6-44) but provides little or no additional information.
The DEIS must disclose the impacts upon Eureka County’s air quality from: (1) fugitive dust releases during construction and operations, (2) diesel engine emissions during construction and operations, including emissions from water trucks, and (3) increased risk of wildfire. The analysis must address visual range (i.e., haze) in addition to bulk emissions and concentrations of criteria pollutants.
3. Impacts on Archeological and Ethnographic Resources
The DEIS fails to analyze impacts of the proposed action on archeological and ethnographic resources in Nevada and Eureka County. (pp. 6-11, -37, -47) Although the DEIS says that "Table 3-36 lists the cultural resource information currently available in each corridor," it lists only the number of recorded sites, of which there are approximately 110. The DEIS says that additional information is available for the Carlin corridor (p. 3-113), but does not say what it includes. Furthermore, the DEIS does not specify whether Table 3-36 applies to the potential rail corridors, the variation of the potential corridor, or both. (See Figure 6-12, p. 6-59.)
Rather than saying that impacts could occur during construction but not during operations, (p. 6-48, -40) the DEIS must specifically disclose anticipated impacts upon archeological and ethnographic resources in the Carlin corridor and Eureka County. The analysis must consider the impacts of improved access to archeological and ethnographic sites. The additional surveys and studies needed to identify impacts (p. 6-11) must be completed prior to a decision on a transportation mode, route, or corridor.
4. Impacts on the Economy
Except for a discussion of the direct and indirect impacts from construction on disposable income and the Gross Regional Product, the DEIS fails to address the impacts of the proposed action on the economy of Eureka County. (pp. 6-13, -14, -37, -64) The County’s economy depends heavily on mining. Construction, agriculture, government, and services are the next largest sectors.
The statement (p. 3-115) that "[s]ocioeconomic effects from the construction of a rail line would be small and, for the most part, short-term," which the DEIS uses to justify the inclusion of less-detailed information for Esmeralda, Eureka, and Lander Counties, is unsupported by any evidence and does not allow an adequate analysis of the impacts of the rail alternatives.
Specifically, the DEIS must address: (1) the anticipated impacts--positive and negative--upon the mining, construction, government, and service sectors and (2) the anticipated impacts on the agricultural economy. The DEIS must address the anticipated economic impacts of shared use of the Carlin rail corridor by the DOE and by other users, such as mines.
5. Environmental Justice Impacts
As discussed in the general comments, the DEIS inadequately analyzes the project impacts in relation to environmental justice. Because of the nature of rural life, communities are dispersed, rather than concentrated. Given the limited political power of rural communities, they are often targeted for unwanted projects. The Yucca Mountain repository is an excellent example of this type of "justice." The DOE’s risk models are based on avoiding urban areas, and presume that risks from the project should be borne by rural people.
The DOE should consider the effects of past programs and policies on communities, as well as the additional impacts of the Yucca Mountain project. Rural low income populations received damaging doses of radiation in the 1950s and 1960s from above-ground and underground nuclear weapons tests conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission. The DOE must take these disproportionately high adverse health and environmental impacts of its programs, policies, and activities into consideration.
6. Impacts on Floodplains, Wetlands, and Surface Waters Generally
The DEIS fails to adequately discuss the effects of the proposed action on floodplains and wetlands in Eureka County. (pp. 6-45, -61) The generic analysis in the DEIS is not sufficient. Crescent Valley, through which the corridor would pass, has been subject to recent flooding at depths of up to four feet in some locations. (See Exhibit F.) The DEIS says that the railroad bed would be constructed to an elevation above the 100-year flood plain, that the road bed could be washed out, that there would be no contamination, and that operations would cease until flooding eased and repairs had been made. (p. 6-47) The DEIS, however, provides no evidence that contamination would not occur and no explanation of how operations would be adjusted to avoid wash-outs. Would such adjustments involve the storage of railcars carrying SNF and HLW on sidings near Beowawe for prolonged periods, up to 48 hours (or longer)? Or would it involve use of alternative routes? Further, the DEIS fails to address how the construction of the road bed and access roads would affect wetlands and the boundaries of the 100-year floodplain. Would new areas be subjected to flooding during large storms? How would re-grading of drainage channels (p. 6-45) affect wetlands?
The DEIS says that the Carlin corridor includes a spring, a river, and five riparian areas that may be classified as jurisdictional wetlands or waters of the United States, but it fails to identify them. (pp. 6-47, -61) Horses, burros, livestock, and wildlife rely on streams and riparian areas, and could be affected by the proposed action. The DEIS must disclose which streams would be affected, and how. Testimony before the DOE at the public hearing in Crescent Valley on December 9, 1999, indicated that there are springs, thermal springs, wetlands and riparian areas utilized by numerous species of birds (including migratory birds) in the vicinity of Crescent Valley. The DEIS must especially disclose potential impacts, including the impacts of a spill, on the Humboldt River, which flows through Eureka County and is the most important surface water resource in the region. This disclosure is integral to the DEIS and must not be postponed to a later analysis. (p. 6-45)
The maximum probable flood methodology applied to Yucca Mountain should also be applied to transportation routes. (See p. 6-45) The DEIS must include floodplain maps and must consider the possibility of a radiological accident involving surface water during flood conditions.
7. Impacts on Housing
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on housing in Eureka County. The housing data provided (p. 3-115) is 10 years old. Due to such factors as the high percentage of public land, the variability of the mining economy, and the high cost of raw materials, Eureka County has unique housing problems that could be aggravated by the proposed action, particularly during the construction phase. Construction would require an annual average of 500 workers (p. 6-63) in a county with only 820 housing units as of 1990 (p. 3-115). Thus, housing impacts could be quite severe.
The DEIS must disclose the anticipated impacts of the proposed action on Eureka County’s housing stock. The disclosure must include direct impacts (e.g., housing of construction crews) and indirect impacts (e.g., increased demand for housing, short-term and long-term, resulting from the multiplier effect from rail corridor construction).
8. Impacts on Infrastructure
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed actions on infrastructure in Eureka County. The County and its residents provide (and depend upon) roads, schools, drainage, water systems, aviation facilities, medical facilities, and public safety facilities that could be affected, directly or indirectly, by the proposed action.
The DEIS must disclose the anticipated impacts of the proposed action on Eureka County’s infrastructure. The disclosure must include direct impacts (e.g., damage or displacement of infrastructure during construction) and indirect impacts (e.g., increased demand on infrastructure due to construction employment). Specifically, the DEIS must address the impact of the rail corridor on the Crescent Valley airport, which lies within the corridor. (See Exhibit D.)
9. Impacts on Land Use and Community Development
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on land use and community development in Eureka County. (pp. 6-36, -43, -44, -60) Impacts on land use would extend far beyond a 60-meter construction zone or a 400-meter corridor with construction camps. (p. 6-44) Almost 60 percent of the assessed private parcels of land in Eureka County are within 10 miles of the Carlin rail corridor, which would affect 1,730 acres of private land along its length. (p. 6-7) (See Exhibit G.) County residents also use public lands for mining, agriculture, and other uses. Eureka County’s Master Plan (January 1997) and its Land Use Element (July 1998) identify land use issues of concern to county residents, including (among others):
The goals and policies of the Land Use Element:
The DEIS fails to describe the Eureka County Master Plan and its land use element, and fails to evaluate whether the proposed action conflicts with its policies. The DOE appears to assume that land uses of rural residents are not significant, while land uses by federal agencies are. The DEIS must disclose and evaluate: (1) the DOE’s planned use, if any, of eminent domain to take private land for the rail corridor, (2) the effect of the proposed action on private property values, including the effects of perceived risk and stigmatization and the effects of improved or restricted access to private property, and (3) the potential growth-inducing effects of the proposed action, and whether it would result in additional parcelization of private land. The DEIS must also disclose whether changes in values of private lands affected by a rail corridor would be a taking of private property rights requiring compensation under the Constitution of the United States.
On December 9, 1999, Sandy Green, Vice-chair of the Board of Eureka County Commissioners, offered the following testimony on this subject during the public hearing before the DOE at Crescent Valley (see Exhibit H):
The DEIS does not adequately address the potential effects that this project could have on property values within our county. Our concern has several dimensions. We are concerned about the potential loss of market value because of the stigma of a nuclear waste rail line in the county. With the strong agricultural base in the county, the nuclear stigma could affect not only property values but also crop prices. We are also aware that such stigma can stymie our efforts to diversify the local economy and attract new enterprises to the county, not to mention retaining existing businesses. The recent nuclear accident in Japan is a case in point, where both tourism and potential business were negatively impacted. The term for this is "disinvestment" and we believe this project could have that sort of impact in our country and our state.
Other persons, including Lee and Nancy Louden and Jamie Gruening, also commented on this subject at the Crescent Valley public hearing. Their comments are included in Exhibit I.
Finally, see the discussion of transportation-related impacts on wildlife, later in this document, for comments related to the Simpson Park habitat management area, the Simpson Park wilderness study area, and the failure of the DEIS to disclose anticipated impacts.
10. Impacts on Local Government
The DEIS fails to address the fiscal impacts of the proposed action on Eureka County and other local governments. (p. 6-37) With a very limited property tax base and sales tax base, and with a volatile mining economy, Eureka County and its residents must provide services and infrastructure related to fire suppression, emergency response, water and sewer, law enforcement, education, and others. The County must also defend itself in any litigation that may arise.
The DEIS must evaluate the projected local revenues and expenses associated with the Carlin corridor in Eureka County, considering both direct and indirect effects. Among other possible impacts, the DEIS must evaluate: (1) fiscal impacts to local emergency response agencies, including the costs of training and maintaining their personnel, and (2) the fiscal effects of potential litigation related to the County’s emergency first response, or lack thereof, to an accident involving transportation of SNF and HLW along the Carlin corridor.
The estimates of local expenditures provided in the DEIS are so general that they are meaningless. They do not provide a viable basis for comparison, nor do they relate estimated expenditures to specific local government budgets. Thus, the information does not permit an examination of actual impacts on local governments and their budgets.
11. Impacts on Mining
The DEIS fails to evaluate the impacts of the proposed action on mining in Eureka County and neighboring counties. Mining is by far the largest sector of Eureka County’s economy. The proposed Carlin corridor traverses an area potentially rich in mineral deposits, which may be needed to support the nation’s economic development and national defense. According to testimony before the DOE at the Crescent Valley public hearing on December 9, 1999, the corridor would divide the existing Cortez mine, and cross a haul road that is in regular use.
The DEIS must evaluate the effects of the proposed action on mining, including: (1) possible restrictions on claimants’ access to their mining claims, (2) division of mining claims, (3) possible physical and legal barriers to the exploitation of mineral deposits, and (4) potential benefits to mining from improved access to railroad service. The DEIS must also disclose whether restricted use of or access to mining claims and sites would be a taking of private property rights requiring compensation under the Constitution of the United States.
12. Impacts on Public Health and Safety
The DEIS fails to adequately assess the potential public health and safety impacts of the proposed Carlin rail corridor and other corridors (pp. 6-11, -37, -39 to -41, -49, -63) in a number of important areas. (For additional discussion of this point, see the January 19, 2000, letter to the DOE from Eureka County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee [LEPC], Exhibit J.)
Transportation of SNF and HLW through areas with limited emergency response capabilities, including Eureka County and much of rural Nevada, increases the risks associated with transportation incidents. Risks are higher because of the lack of initial response capability and the time delay for responding personnel. Some jurisdictions may choose not to respond to incidents involving SNF and HLW due to financial and personnel considerations. Jurisdictions with volunteer fire departments and other volunteer emergency responders may decide not to respond to incidents in which they cannot participate safely. The DEIS must address these scenarios.
The discussion of transportation emergencies, emergency assistance, emergency response, and carrier and shipper responsibilities is vague, misleading, and inadequate. (p. 6-30) It does not consider that local jurisdictions may choose not to respond to radiological incidents, that they may not have the capabilities to respond even if assistance and training are available, or that limited emergency response may itself create impacts. Specifically:
Finally, incidents and accidents involving military aircraft and ground transportation have occurred in Nevada in the past, and may also occur in the future. The DEIS does not specifically evaluate this risk. The FEIS for Withdrawal of Public Lands for Range Safety and Public Purposes, NAS Fallon, NV (Department of the Navy, May 1998) and the FEIS, Proposed Fallon Range Training Complex Requirements, NAS Fallon, NV (Department of the Navy and Bureau of Land Management, January 2000) address the public safety impacts and other impacts of military aircraft operations in areas that would be affected by the transportation elements of the proposed action. However, the Yucca Mountain DEIS does not adequately consider: (1) potential cumulative public safety impacts, (2) whether the transportation elements of the proposed action would adversely affect the Navy’s and the BLM’s risk assessments, or (3) threats from military training flights associated with the Fallon NAS to trucks and trains carrying SNF and HLW. See Exhibit K for a map depicting current military flight patterns, which include many thousands of annual operations according to the Navy and the BLM.
13. Impacts on Public Services
The DEIS does not adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on public services in Eureka County and other counties. Eureka County and the Eureka County School District provide public services including education, libraries, public health administration, police, fire protection, and others.
The DEIS must analyze the direct and indirect impacts of the proposed action on education and other essential public services. Specifically, the DEIS must address the demand on public services, and associated costs, that would be created by construction crews of 500 persons (annual average) and their families and support personnel.
The discussion of impacts on public services of the Nevada rail alternatives is particularly inadequate regarding emergency response services. The type, capability, and availability of such services, and local government attitudes toward response to radiological incidents vary widely in the affected counties. The additional risk, costs, training, and management issues regarding emergency response must be included in the DEIS. (For additional discussion of this point, see the January 19, 2000, letter to the DOE from Eureka County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee [LEPC], Exhibit J.)
14. Impacts on the Quality of Life
The DEIS fails to consider the impacts of the proposed action on the quality of life now experienced by Eureka County’s residents. The unique values of such communities as Crescent Valley include clean air, access to open space and recreation, active and passive enjoyment of fish and wildlife, quiet surroundings, enjoyment of nature, beautiful views and scenery, participation in the community life of a small town, the safety and security of a close-knit community, employment in agriculture and other outdoor occupations, and many others.
According to the written testimony of Jean Plummer, presented at the public hearing before the DOE on December 9, 1999, at Crescent Valley (Exhibit I):
Beowawe and Crescent Valley, Nevada, might be considered townships with small populations, even if all the surrounding areas were included. Our land, though, has much natural beauty, good fishing, hunting, colorful spring flowers, canyons in the mountains, willows and cottonwood trees and streams winding through. Our children have a great school and a small community to grow up in. The Yucca Mountain project will destroy all of this within 25 years if not sooner.
The DEIS must consider the impacts of the proposed action on the quality of life in the communities in Eureka County and neighboring counties that would be affected--directly and indirectly--by the construction and operation of a rail line, access roads, fences, and supporting structures.
15. Impacts on Recreation
The DEIS fails to address the impacts of the proposed action on recreation in Eureka County and neighboring counties. Residents of Eureka County, as well as residents of other parts of Nevada and other states, rely on open spaces within the county for its unique recreation opportunities, including camping, hunting, fishing, nature study, history study, back country travel, horse pack trips, and sightseeing. Eureka County and its neighboring counties include large unspoiled areas that could be affected, directly or indirectly, by the proposed action.
The DEIS must analyze the anticipated impacts of the proposed action on recreation. Specifically, the DEIS must consider the impacts of: (1) constructing and operating a raised railroad bed and access road through back country areas and hunting ranges, (2) constructing and operating roads connecting the rail corridor to resources such as borrow pits, (3) constructing fences, (4) restricting or improving access to the back country, (5) direct and indirect damage to recreational, historical, and natural resources, and (6) direct and indirect impacts on fish and game.
The DEIS says, "Each corridor has areas the public uses and areas available for sale and transfer. As a consequence, the rail line could result in limited access to areas currently in use by the public." (p. 6-44) Does this mean that areas traditionally available for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, will be off limits? Does it mean that a person would need permission from the DOE or the rail operator to have access to such areas?
16. Impacts on Scenic Resources
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on the scenic resources of Eureka County and Nevada’s other rural counties. Nevada’s rural areas provide increasingly rare unspoiled views of the basin and range region, and include numerous scenic resources, none of which are identified in the DEIS. Scenic resources that could be affected by the proposed Carlin corridor include such areas as Monitor Valley and Grass Valley, and such features as stage stops, hot springs, graveyards, historic mines, historic ranches, historic railroads, the Humboldt River, and unique geological formations. The statement on p. 6-50, "The greatest impact on visual resources from the construction of a rail line would be the presence of workers, camps, vehicles, large earth-moving equipment, laydown yards, and dust generation" is self-serving and unsupported by any evidence. The statement completely ignores the long-term scenic impacts of new permanent linear facilities (i.e., rail lines and access roads) and the associated land disturbance.
The DEIS must analyze the anticipated impacts of the proposed action on views and scenery, particularly in areas now in a natural or nearly-natural condition. The DEIS must consider, at a minimum, the long-term scenic impacts of the railroad bed, access roads, excavations and pits, fences, and supporting infrastructure.
17. Impacts on Soils
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on soils in Eureka County and other counties. (pp. 6-11, -37, -47) Given Nevada’s arid climate, the desert soils are fragile and easily disturbed, and may not recover on their own. Compaction of access roads would increase, not decrease, erosion. (p. 6-47) Nevada’s mines are subject to some of the most stringent reclamation requirements in the country. Reclamation is technically and financially demanding, requiring careful planning, contouring, planting, maintenance, and--in many cases--irrigation during establishment of vegetation.
The DEIS must analyze the impacts on soils from constructing a raised railroad bed and access roads, including extensive cut and fill operations.
18. Impacts on Solid Waste
The DEIS fails to adequately address the generation of solid waste under the proposed action in Eureka County. (p. 6-15) The statement, "DOE expects waste quantities generated by rail line construction and operation to be minor in comparison to those from repository construction and operation," (p. 3-100) is irrelevant, and the decision not to discuss waste disposal infrastructure along the routes is inappropriate. The generic discussion on p. 6-51 is vague, self-serving, and inadequate.
The DEIS must disclose the quantities and fates of solid waste that would be generated in Eureka County under the proposed action. It must discuss the waste disposal infrastructure (i.e., landfills, transfer stations, and transportation systems) and any capacity constraints, and the impacts of the proposed action on that infrastructure.
19. Impacts on Transportation
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on existing surface transportation systems in Eureka County and other counties in Nevada. Interstate 80, US 50, NV 278, and NV 306 are the main improved routes in Eureka County. They are important routes for mining, interstate commerce, and the mobility of County residents and visitors. The Union Pacific railroad generally parallels I-80 and the Humboldt River across the northern portion of the County. It is an essential component of the transportation network for interstate commerce and national defense. A network of minor roads also serves the residents of Eureka County, providing access to public lands, private property, and mining claims.
Principal transportation routes. The DEIS must analyze and disclose the impacts of the proposed action on the railroad and the main improved highways. Specifically, it must consider: (1) the existing capacities of road and railroad links, in terms of both weight and traffic volume, (2) the anticipated increases in utilization of those links, in terms of weight and volume, (3) the impacts of those increases on rails, pavements, road beds, and travel times, and (4) whether the proposed action would create a need or demand for additional improved routes through Eureka County.
Eureka County is especially concerned that utilization of the main Union Pacific tracks and facilities in the northern county could involve the storage of rail cars carrying SNF and HLW on sidings near Beowawe for extended periods of time. The impacts of such storage on transcontinental rail operations and on existing sidings in the vicinity (including those at Carlin and Dunphy) must be considered. In addition, the DEIS must consider the impacts upon the nation’s rail transport system of an accident involving SNF and HLW and one of the UP bridges over the Humboldt River.
Alternative routes. In the context of the mostly legal-weight truck scenario, I-80, US 50, NV 278, NV 376 (in Lander and Nye Counties), US 6 (in White Pine and Nye Counties), and other Nevada routes could be utilized as main or alternate routes for the transport of SNF and HLW. The impacts of the proposed action on the existing uses of those routes must be addressed in the DEIS, in addition to I-15 in southern Nevada. Among other information, the DEIS must disclose the alternative routes that would be used, and the anticipated impacts along those routes, when rail or legal-weight truck operations are interrupted by flooding, range fires, and other natural events.
R.S. 2477 roads and other access routes. Rights of way over public lands for many roads were granted by Section 8 of chapter 262, 14 Statutes 253 (former 43 U.S.C. Sec. 932, commonly referred to as R.S. 2477) enacted in 1866. Such roads serve the public interest; provide access for fire control, law enforcement, search and rescue, medical personnel, and public utilities; provide access to public lands for members of the general public; and enhance the taxable value of the private property they serve. (For additional discussion of this topic, see Exhibit L.)
Eureka County is concerned that many R.S. 2477 roads and other roads along the proposed Carlin corridor may be affected by construction of the roadbed, access roads, and fences. The DEIS must disclose: (1) whether the proposed action would result in the closing of any of these roads, (2) whether it would restrict access to them in any way, and (3) how the proposed action would ensure the continuity of such roads, through the use of at-grade crossings, underpasses, overpasses, or other means. Subsection 1 of Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 405.204 authorizes Nevada’s attorney general to bring an action for declaratory judgment against an agency of the United States responsible for the lands over which an accessory road runs that pursues the closing of an accessory road or demands a fee or permit for its use.
20. Impacts on Vegetation
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on vegetation in Eureka County and other counties. (p. 6-37) Noxious weeds are a major problem in Nevada and the western U.S. They threaten the livelihood of everyone who depends on the use of the range, they are easily spread by the wind, by livestock and other animals, by persons (such as construction workers) on foot, and by motor vehicles (such as construction vehicles) and they are difficult or impossible to control once established. Disturbed soils are especially vulnerable to colonization by noxious weeds.
Eureka County also contains numerous sites where rare or sensitive plants are located; such plants are particularly vulnerable to disturbance associated with construction or simply with improved access to their habitats.
The DEIS must analyze the potential impacts of the proposed action on the spread of noxious weeds, during both construction and operations. Specifically, it must identify vectors that would be created or enlarged for the spread of such weeds, and the consequences of possible infestations. The DEIS must also describe the habitats and known population sites of rare and sensitive plants and identify potential disturbance during construction, and also as a result of the establishment of new access corridors in Eureka County.
21. Impacts on Water Supplies, Water Rights, and Groundwater Generally
The DEIS fails to adequately disclose the impacts of the proposed action on water and water rights. (pp. 6-10, -36, -61, -62) The State Engineer oversees use of the waters of the State of Nevada for the long-term benefit of its residents. Given the arid climate and the scarcity of surface water resources, the quality and quantity of groundwater are particularly important to Eureka County and the state as a whole.
The DOE must consult with the State Engineer to determine whether the utilization of groundwater from 67 wells during construction of the Carlin rail corridor (p. 6-10) would be consistent with the water laws of the State of Nevada, affect the water rights of the existing holders of such rights, or affect the cost of water for domestic and agricultural use. The DEIS must also disclose the risk to groundwater resources that could be affected by a radiological accident or hazardous waste discharge associated with the proposed action on the Carlin rail corridor or any other surface transportation route. The DEIS must describe the permitting, construction, and closure of the wells, and any environmental impacts (e.g., impacts caused by drilling muds).
The DEIS must also disclose whether the loss or diminution of a water right would be a taking of private property rights requiring compensation under the Constitution of the United States.
22. Impacts on Wild and Free-roaming Horses and Burros
The DEIS fails to adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on wild and free-roaming horses and burros. Many horses and burros inhabit the public and private range lands of Eureka County and neighboring counties. They are protected under the federal Wild and Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act and are of concern to the residents of Eureka County. The DEIS says (under the land use heading) that the corridor would cross five management areas (p. 6-60) or six management areas (p. 6-62), and that land would be "converted." But the DEIS does not discuss the impacts.
The DEIS must disclose the impacts upon Eureka County’s wild horses and burros of: (1) conversion of range land to other uses, (2) fragmentation of herd management areas, (3) loss of forage from land disturbance, introduction of weeds, increased wildfire, or other factors, (4) restrictions on wild horse movement, (5) loss of water supplies, or restricted access to water supplies, (6) loss of horses hit by trains or other motor vehicles, and the associated public safety implications, (7) changes in the cost of wild horse management, , and (8) increases in harassment of horses. The impact analysis must address both construction and operation of fences, water wells, the railroad bed and tracks, and access roads along and perpendicular to the tracks.
23. Impacts on Wildlife
The DEIS does not adequately address the impacts of the proposed action on wildlife. (pp. 6-10, -11, -37, -47, -60) Deer, antelope, sage grouse and other game and nongame species of wildlife inhabit the rangelands and uplands of Eureka County. The DEIS says that construction of the rail corridor would result in loss and fragmentation of habitat, disrupt wildlife, and kill individual animals (p. 6-47) but provides no specific information. The DEIS says under the land use heading that the corridor would cross the Bates Mountain antelope release area, three designated riparian habitats, and the Simpson Park habitat management area (p. 6-60) but does not discuss impacts on these areas. (According to the FEIS, Proposed Fallon Range Training Complex Requirements, Naval Air Station Fallon, NV [Department of the Navy and Bureau of Land Management, January 2000], the Simpson Park range is also the site of a wilderness study area. The DEIS does not disclose this fact, or discuss any impacts upon the study area.) Finally, the DEIS says on page 6-62 that the corridor would cross seven areas designated as game habitat, but does not discuss impacts on them either.
The DEIS must disclose the impacts upon Eureka County’s wildlife of: (1) conversion of wildlife habitat to other uses, (2) fragmentation of habitat, (3) damage to forage from land disturbance, introduction of weeds, increased wildfire, or other factors, (4) restrictions on wildlife movement and migration, (5) loss of water supplies, or restricted access to water supplies, (6) loss of wildlife hit by trains or other motor vehicles, and the associated public safety implications, (7) changes in value of wildlife areas for hunting and fishing, (8) changes in the costs of wildlife management, and (9) increases in harassment of wildlife. The impact analysis must address both construction and operation of fences, water wells, the railroad bed and tracks, and access roads along and perpendicular to the tracks, and it must be species-specific.
The DEIS must specifically disclose the impacts of the proposed action on winter deer range in the vicinity of Beowawe, including the Horseshoe Ranch, and the impacts on deer migration between winter range in the Dry Hills northeast of Hot Springs Point and summer range to the north. Nevada’s Division of Wildlife, the BLM, and others have spent large amounts of money restoring the winter range in this area, and the proposed action may negate those expenditures.
G. Impacts of the No-Action Alternative (Chapter 7)
Limitation on scope of analysis inappropriate. Although the DEIS says that the same spectrum of environmental impacts was considered for the no-action alternative as for the proposed action, it also says (in the same paragraph) that DOE decided to focus the no-action analysis on the health and safety of workers and members of the public. (p. 7-6) This limitation on the scope of the no-action analysis is inappropriate. It rules out any meaningful comparison with the impacts of the proposed action.
Also, the implication (p. 7-7) that the proposed action does not affect the 72 commercial and 5 DOE facilities and their surrounding environments, but the no-action alternative does, is not true. Obviously, both alternatives would result in environmental impacts at all the sites.
Analysis of no-action alternative inconsistent and biased. Despite statements to the contrary, the analysis of the proposed action and the no-action alternative is not consistent. (See pp. 7-9, -16) The statement on p. 7-9 that Chapter 3, section 3.3, discusses the conditions at the sites that formed the basis for identifying impacts of the no-action alternative is not true. The statement on p. 7-11 that the Yucca Mountain workforce would lose their jobs under the no-action alternative is unsupported and alarmist; it reflects bias. The statement on p. 7-12 that payments in lieu of taxes would be diminished under the no-action alternative is unsupported. The analysis of in-lieu payments should address both costs and revenues. The statement on p. 7-46 that concentrations and areas affected by radiation from Module 1 would be impossible to estimate is untrue on its face.
H. Cumulative Impacts (Chapter 8)
Analysis of shared rail use inadequate. The analysis of the impacts of shared public/private use of DOE branch rail lines is inadequate. (pp. 8-4, -15) The analysis properly belongs in Chapter 6, Transportation Impacts. The statement that predicting increases in rail traffic from shared use would be difficult and, therefore, is not done is unacceptable. The DEIS says there will be impacts, and they must be analyzed, disclosed, and mitigated as necessary. (p. 8-87)
Analysis of impacts on public services inadequate. The DEIS does not adequately address cumulative impacts on emergency response services. The DEIS says that cumulative operations impacts would result because of the extra 14 years of shipping required for Modules 1 or 2 (p. 8-85), but that the DOE expects no cumulative socioeconomic impacts. This conclusion is contradictory and improbable since state, local, and tribal government emergency services would continue to be impacted.
Reasonably foreseeable related actions not disclosed. The DEIS fails to disclose a proposal under consideration by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct an independent spent fuel storage installation at the Skull Valley Indian Reservation in Tooele County, Utah, as described in the Federal Register on February 9, 2000. The DOE knew, or should have known, that this project, if approved, would add to the cumulative environmental impacts of the proposed action. Eureka County is especially concerned about this proposal due to its immediate proximity to Nevada and the potential for increased transportation-related impacts on Eureka County and neighboring counties from shipments of SNF and HLW to and from Tooele County.
The DEIS also fails to disclose the cumulative impacts on Nevada from the proposed action and the Fallon Range Training Complex Requirements, NAS Fallon, as described in the FEIS prepared for that project by the Navy and the BLM (January 2000). For example, the DEIS does not disclose that the proposed Carlin corridor would pass through an area at the north end of Big Smoky Valley, southeast of Austin, NV, where the Navy plans to install up to five fixed or mobile electronic warfare sites and a tracking instrumentation subsystem site. Nor does the DEIS disclose that staging areas for training aircraft and enemy aircraft, and air-to-air/electronic warfare training areas associated with NAS Fallon are presently located over portions of the proposed Carlin corridor. (See Exhibit K.) The DOE knew, or should have known, that activities associated with NAS Fallon would add to the cumulative environmental impacts of the proposed action.
Other comments. The failure of Congress to ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty makes the future resumption of nuclear weapons tests more likely. (pp. 8-3, -11, -12) The statement that interim storage was not analyzed for cumulative impacts because it is uncertain is inappropriate; it is reasonably foreseeable and must be included. (p. 8-5) The inadequacies of the air pollution analysis are similar to those in Chapter 4: the discussion is vague and the conclusions unsupported by the evidence, particularly the statement that there will be no effect on the Las Vegas Valley air basin. (pp. 8-24 to 8-30) The statement that the final EIS will review new information from the Pipeline Southeast Expansion Project for cumulative impacts is unacceptable, since the public will not have the opportunity to comment (p. 8-85).
I. Mitigation (Chapter 9)
Mitigation generally. Particularly with respect to the transportation impacts of the proposed action, Eureka County’s comments have identified many areas in which the impact assessment is incomplete and inadequate, including: agriculture, air quality, archeological and ethnographic resources, the economy, environmental justice, floodplains and wetlands, infrastructure, housing, land use and community development, local government, mining, public health and safety, public services, the quality of life, recreation, scenic resources, soils, solid waste, transportation, vegetation, water, wild horses and burros, and wildlife. Because impacts in these areas have not been fully disclosed, the discussion of mitigation is also inadequate.
Pending a complete, thorough analysis of the transportation impacts of the proposed action, a list of required mitigation is difficult to prepare. Nevertheless, based on Eureka County’s comments to date, mitigation must be included at least for:
Specifically regarding mitigation of environmental impacts caused by fencing of railroad tracks and access roads, the DOE must commit to consultation not only with the BLM but also with local agricultural producers, public safety officials, and local governments to determine whether or not fences are needed at any location.
Mitigation related to emergency response and management. Mitigation measures for impacts to local governments for emergency response and management activities made necessary by the proposed action (including the transportation alternatives) are incomplete or absent. This is a significant oversight. Local emergency response resources will typically be the first on the scene of any accident involving the transportation of SNF and HLW. The DOE’s National Transportation Program publication, Transporting Radioactive Materials, Answers to Your Questions (June 1999) says (p. 24), "As with any traffic accident, the local, Tribal, and State police, fire departments, and rescue squads are the first to respond to transportation accidents involving radioactive materials."
The introduction to Chapter 9 (p. 9-1) tries to head off any discussion of specific mitigation actions for emergency response services and emergency management actions. The discussion is based on an over-simplified reference to Section 116(c) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. While Section 116(c) may help mitigate impacts to public health and safety, it does not eliminate the need for identification of specific mitigation actions in the DEIS. Furthermore, it does not constitute the universe of mitigation measures for public health and safety.
Through the DEIS, DOE must examine all relevant mitigation measures, including mitigation of ongoing impacts over the life of the proposed waste shipments.
The discussion of occupational health and safety (p. 9-23) includes no mitigation to reduce the impacts from waste shipment transportation accidents. For example, it does not mitigate impacts from the lack of local emergency response capabilities. Such mitigation could include dedicated emergency response teams (not local government teams) that would be immediately available within a short response time to the scene of an accident. The teams could travel in conjunction with, but away from, SNF and HLW shipments, or they could be stationed strategically and equipped for quick initial response. Such teams would be a particularly effective mitigation where there are few or no local emergency resources.
Further, mitigation actions should address all phases of emergency management, including preparedness, response, and recovery. Thus, they should address programs, funding, and training.
Some mitigation actions described in Chapter 9 are so general that it is not possible to determine what they would consist of or how effective they would be. For example, the DEIS suggests a measure to "improve design of affected roadways to reduce accidents." (p. 9-23) The mitigation measures must be specifically designed to reduce or eliminate foreseeable hazards from the operation of rail lines in Nevada. They must address hazards at rail crossings, during switching, when shipments are parked on sidings, and from train derailments.
Baseline health assessment and compensation fund. The mitigation program must include a special escrow fund for prompt and complete compensation of persons affected by accidents along transportation routes. Eureka County’s primary responsibility in relation to the proposed Yucca Mountain project is to protect the health and safety of the residents of the County. Eureka County was downwind of, and a recipient of, fallout from the Atomic Energy Commission’s above-ground and underground nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s. That experience, which included the exposure of County residents to radioactivity, taught lessons that can be applied to the proposed action.
Upon initiation of the proposed action, the DOE should conduct a baseline health assessment of all persons within a reasonable region of influence of the Carlin rail corridor, and all other corridors or routes that will be used. When a transportation accident occurs that would expose residents to radioactivity, victims should not be subject to the same treatment as were "downwinders" from the nuclear weapons tests. All claims should be evaluated against the baseline assessment and paid promptly from an escrow fund set up in advance of transportation, and fully funded from the start. This method would ensure that citizens exposed to radioactivity from a nuclear transportation or handling accident will be compensated. The fund should be established under the auspices of an independent third party, with an initial endowment of $1 billion. Victims should not have to litigate or die trying to get compensated for their medical costs, loss of livelihood, and other damages resulting from exposure.
A story in the Las Vegas Sun (January 8, 2000) provides an analogy that illustrates the need for the baseline health assessment and compensation fund. The article says that many veterans’ widows cannot find evidence that their husbands participated in secret experiments related to the effects of radiation on battlefield soldiers. Without such records, they cannot request compensation. Pat Broudy, the wife of deceased veteran Chuck Broudy, says, "The government is waiting for us all to die." She says, "When they ask for compensation for disability and indemnity compensation from the VA, [government officials] say prove it. They’ve got the documents. We don’t have the documents. They’ve got the proof. We don’t have the proof."
The Price-Anderson Act does not provide the kind of coverage that is needed. Its funding is limited, and it depends upon a future session of Congress to provide additional funds. Eureka County cannot depend on future generations of lawmakers to provide for the potential victims of the proposed action. Instead, a certain source of funding should be part of the mitigation for the project.
J. Required Federal Permits, Licenses, and Entitlements (Chapter 11)
The DEIS fails to adequately disclose the federal permits, licenses, and entitlements that must be obtained to implement the transportation elements of the proposed action, as required in 40 CFR 1502.25. From the discussion in Chapter 11, it is not clear whether construction and operation of proposed rail corridors (and their associated access roads, fences, and other features) would require:
It is also unclear from the discussion in the DEIS whether the transportation aspects of the proposed action, specifically including the construction of a railroad line and associated facilities, would constitute a take or harvest of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, or would avoid wildlife refuges, wildlife ranges, game ranges, and wildlife management areas, as required by the DOE policy administering the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.
Finally, despite the statement on p. 11-17 that the DEIS "assesses the potential construction of a rail line, new roads, or an intermodal transfer station in Nevada to determine if that construction could affect [farmlands]," the DEIS fails to make any such assessment, beyond the broadest of generalities. As noted in the DEIS, the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service must determine that the proposed action does not affect farmlands.
Since the discussion is so unclear as to whether rail corridors and other transportation aspects would require federal permits, licenses, or entitlements, the DEIS--in effect--conceals from Eureka County and all other persons important procedural aspects related to the proposed repository and its transportation systems. The inadequate, incomplete disclosure fails to provide Eureka County with essential information regarding administrative remedies. Coupled with the numerous other inadequacies of the DIES, this failure violates the purpose of NEPA and the principle of due process.
Regarding the transportation elements of the proposed action, the DEIS must specifically disclose: (1) the identity of all federal approvals that DOE or its agents must obtain to construct and operate those elements, as required by 40 CFR 1502.25(b), (2) all steps the DOE will follow to satisfy the requirements of NEPA, and (3) the procedural requirements Eureka County must satisfy to protect its legal rights to appeal each required federal approval and each action of the DOE under NEPA.
III. SUMMARY AND REQUIRED ACTIONS
The DEIS is inadequate to support a decision on modes, routes, or corridors for the transportation of SNF and HLW to Yucca Mountain. It omits essential information regarding the affected environment and the anticipated environmental impacts, particularly for the national transportation routes and for transportation within Nevada.
Although the DOE says it does not know when it will make the transportation decision, transportation is integral to the project and must be fully covered in the DEIS. Disclosure of transportation impacts must not be postponed, and future decisions must not rely on the sketchy, inadequate information in the DEIS.
The DEIS is confusing and, therefore, misleading as to the future generation of SNF and HLW. If the DOE proposes to close all commercial nuclear power plants by a certain year, this must be explicitly stated as part of the proposed action.
The DEIS must include a realistic no-action alternative, and evaluate that alternative fairly, using consistent assumptions. The environment that would be affected by the no-action alternative must be specifically described.
For the various impact areas, DOE must carefully reconsider the regions of influence and draw them broadly, to reflect the unique nature and vast risks of the proposed action.
The DEIS must then re-analyze and disclose the environmental impacts of the proposed action, particularly its transportation aspects, and define appropriate mitigation measures when a thorough analysis is completed. In any event, the mitigation program must include immediate compensation for takings of private property rights under the Constitution of the United States, as well as a baseline health assessment and a special escrow account to compensate victims of radioactive exposure along transportation routes. It must also include a thorough analysis of:
Since the DEIS is inadequate in so many respects, especially with respect to its transportation elements, the DOE must issue a new, revised DEIS and give the public new opportunities to comment, including public hearings. At a minimum, the revised DEIS must address all of Eureka County’s comments regarding Chapter 6, transportation-related impacts, and Chapter 9, mitigation.
B. Comments of Eureka County property owners residing outside Eureka County
D. Excerpt prepared by Eureka County from Rail Alignment Design, Carlin Route,
Crescent Valley Section, Plate 1, U.S. DOE, Yucca Mountain Site Characterization Project, Civilian Radioactive Waste Management System, Management and Operating Contractor, EIS Privileged, undated
E. Population of Nevada’s Unincorporated Towns--Historical Governor’s Certified Series, NV Department of Taxation and NV State Demographer, preliminary, November 15, 1999
F. Flood Zone Analysis, Eureka County, NV
G. Analysis of private parcels within 10 miles of Carlin corridor, Eureka County, NV
I. Video tapes, Crescent Valley public hearings before the DOE (December 9, 1999), and transcripts, including testimony of Nancy Louden and Jamie Gruening
I. Transcripts - Crescent Valley public hearings before the DOE (December 9, 1999), transcripts, includ testimony of Nancy Louden and Jamie Gruening
J. Letter to Wendy R. Dixon, EIS Project Manager, DOE, from Eureka County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, January 19, 2000
K. Current Flight Patterns, NAS Fallon, Department of the Navy and Bureau of Land Management, January 2000