Judge holds hearing over rejected Goshute nuclear dump
A federal judge heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians of Utah against the Interior Department.

The tribe wants to store up to 44,000 tons of nuclear waste at facility on a small portion of its reservation. The project won approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and beat back a number of challenges from the state that were deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

But it was Interior that put an end to the controversial plan in September 2006. The Bureau of Indian Affairs said it it couldn't approve a lease agreement for the site because the tribe lacked adequate law enforcement services while the Bureau of Land Management rejected a rail line to the reservation because it would cross a newly designated wilderness area.

The tribe says Bush administration officials violated the law in rejecting the project. "These decisions don't hold water at all," attorney Tim Vollmann told Judge David M. Ebell, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Vollmann said Interior should have deferred to tribal wishes. But a Department of Justice attorney said no such obligation exists.

While the tribe was waiting for Interior to make a decision about the lease and the right-of-way for the rail line, former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles offered to add land to the reservation and expand hunting and fishing rights if the tribe dropped the project. Griles was later sent to prison for lying about his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The case is Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians v. Cason, No. 07-00526.

Get the Story:
Goshutes fight N-waste rulings (The Salt Lake Tribune 3/23)

Related D.C. Circuit Decision:
OGD v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (June 26, 2007)

Interior Decision Documents:
Skull Valley Band Nuclear Waste Repository

Related Stories:
Skull Valley Goshutes sue DOI over lease rejection (7/18)
Court puts off challenge to Goshute nuclear (6/27)
Interior called Goshute chairman on cell phone (09/14)
Goshute chairman blasts Interior on waste deal (9/13)
Editorial: Interior, the imprudent trustee (9/11)
Interior rejects Skull Valley nuclear waste dump (9/8)
Goshute Tribe rejects Griles deal as 'disingenuous' (4/24)