- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- senate Committees
- The house has not voted
Committee on Energy and CommerceEnvironment and Climate ChangeIntroducedJanuary 8th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 347?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 347
In-Depth: Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to extend the Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Cheney Disposal Cell’s authorization through fiscal year 2031. When he introduced this bill in the 115th Congress, Rep. Tipton said:
“The Department of Energy’s Cheney Disposal Cell in Mesa County is a vital component of the Office of Legacy Management’s mission to protect public health and the environment. Uranium waste materials continue to be discovered during road construction, bridge replacement, home foundation excavation and other activities across Western Colorado and need a place to be disposed of. This legislation will see to it that there continues to be a safe disposal site for the tailings.”
This bill has one cosponsor, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). It was first introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in the 114th Congress, where it had no cosponsors and didn’t receive a committee vote. In the 115th Congress, the House version of this bill, which would’ve extended authority for the Cheney Disposal Cell through FY 2030, was introduced by Rep. Tipton with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. DeGette, and it passed the House by a voice vote before failing to receive a Senate vote. A Senate version, which would’ve extended authority for the Cheney Disposal Cell through FY 2048, was introduced by Sen. Gardner without any cosponsors, and it passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.
Of Note: Uranium mill tailings (a sand-like byproduct of uranium ore processing) were used as fill and construction material in the mid-1900s. The DOE has already cleaned up most of the sites that contained tailings, but mill tailings are still uncovered from time to time during road construction and redevelopment programs.
The Cheney Disposal Cell is the only DOE facility authorized to accept mill tailings. Under current law, the DOE Secretary may operate the Cheney Disposal Cell until 2023, or until the site has fulfilled its capacity. At present, the cell’s remaining capacity is approximately 234,000 cubic yards, and it receives 2,700 cubic yards of waste on an annual basis. As a result, the cell isn’t expected to reach its capacity by 2023.
Uranium mill tailings carry a number of health risks. They can contaminate surface water or groundwater that may be used for drinking water. If not properly handled, dust from tailings piles can be blown away from the original sites, after which point people can breathe them in or they can contaminate water. Additionally, uranium tailings contain radium, which decays to produce radon, an invisible and odorless radioactive gas that causes lung cancer. Uranium tailings may also contain selenium, which can be toxic if swallowed or absorbed at length, and thorium, a natural element that gives off radiation.
- Sponsoring Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) Press Release (115th Congress)
- Sponsoring Rep. Scott Tipton Floor Remarks (115th Congress)
- CBO Cost Estimate (115th Congress)
- GAO Report (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Adventure_Photo)