« 170 Conservation Groups Urge Senate to Reject Zinke for Interior Secretary | Main | Environmental coalition appeals to federal court in opposition to Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in MI »

Environmental coalition defends its legal appeal, seeks to block Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in Michigan

Terry Lodge, legal counsel for the environmental coalition resisting Fermi 3

An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, is entering its 10th year of resistance (2008-2017) against Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor in southeast Michigan on the Great Lakes shoreline.

On Dec. 23rd, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge filed a Reply Brief, in defense of a legal appeal originally filed in October, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land, just below the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Reply rebuts challenges to the appeal brought by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Detroit Edison (DTE).

Lodge serves as legal counsel for an environmental coalition opposing Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor in Monroe County, MI on the Lake Erie shoreline. The coalition -- including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and Sierra Club MI Chapter -- has resisted Fermi 3 since 2008. It has been joined by additional allies, such as the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, as well as Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two, and others.

The appeal focuses on safety-significant quality assurance (QA -- Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. serves as the coalition's expert witness) violations at Fermi 3, as well as violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by the NRC itself -- specifically, the proposed new transmission line corridor's exclusion from NRC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Re: the latter, this is the first ever legal challenge against a highly controversial 2007 NRC regulatory rollback involving the Orwellian change in the definition of a single word -- construction -- in the agency's regulations. NRC Commissioner Merrifield orchestrated the change, just before retiring from the agency, and going to work for the Shaw Group, which specializes in new reactor construction. Merrifield was paid a handsome salary at his new job, inspiring the phrase "Merrifield-go-round" for this particular instance of the revolving door between government and industry.

The legalistic shenanigans allowed NRC to disregard major federal actions in the EIS, such as the building and operation of a transmission line corridor. But the coalition holds that the NRC's trickery happens to be illegal under NEPA, no matter how convenient it is to the agency for rubber-stamping proposed new reactor construction and operation.