The public protests and court filings have been aimed at the federal Department of Energy.
Now, two other federal agencies are being drawn into the controversy over the truckloads of liquid nuclear waste that some people fear may be trucked across the Peace Bridge.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security can expect a written notice from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and it carries more weight than it might seem.
Higgins told The Buffalo News on Monday that he expects to file paperwork putting the two agencies on notice about the “hazardous condition” of transporting the material through the region. The notice forces EPA and Homeland Security officials to pay attention to the matter, Higgins said.
And, by design, it could entangle the two federal agencies against the Energy Department, Higgins said.
He called the move a legal mechanism similar to a citizen making a complaint to the city Streets Department about a pothole.
It puts them on notice.
“If you file that, and they don’t do anything about it, these agencies can be deemed to be negligent,” Higgins said.
“One thing the federal government typically responds to is potential liability exposure,” he said.
Last week, seven environmental organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy seeking a restraining order and injunctions to block the agency from its plans to transport the liquid radioactive waste from Chalk River, Ont., to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
A possible route between the two places includes the Peace Bridge.
A tractor-trailer would carry a container with a cask that holds about 60 gallons of high-level liquid waste, according to government documents. About 150 such shipments would be required over almost four years.
After crossing the Peace Bridge, maps show the trucks proceeding on the Niagara Thruway through downtown Buffalo and then westbound on the Thruway to Erie, Pa.
The shipments could start as early as next month.
Higgins, who called the plan “reckless and irresponsible,” serves as ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism & Intelligence. He said he’s met personally with top Energy Department officials to no avail.
The Energy Department hasn’t followed Higgins’ and others’ calls for an environmental impact statement that would involve the public in the process, but instead submitted a supplemental analysis document last November.
In it, the Energy Department reports “the overall impacts of transporting the target residue material were determined to be very small.”