HERMISTON - Judges at the state Court of Appeals have refused to halt the incineration of chemical weapons at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, denying a request for an injunction filed by opponents of incineration last week.

In denying the motion, which asked the court to temporarily stop the burning of M55 rockets containing chemical warfare agents, the panel of three judges said they were not persuaded that the emissions would harm pregnant women, breast-feeding infants and school children, as was alleged in the request.

The judges also said they did not believe GASP and other petitioners named on the motion were likely to prevail on their appeals of a five-year-old lawsuit. In that lawsuit, GASP is seeking to stop incineration and replace it with an alternative, allegedly safer method to be used to destroy the weapons. The case, known as "GASP I," is pending in the Court of Appeals.

Karyn Jones of GASP said this morning she had not yet read the court ruling and declined to comment on the denial of the injunction.

In the meantime, 15 M55 rockets have been destroyed since the second week of September - four so far this week.

More than 90,000 rockets, as well as thousands of other munitions containing nerve and blister agents, are scheduled to be burned over the next six years.

"We're pleased that agent operations can continue," said Dennis Murphey, program administrator for the chemical demilitarization program for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, one of the respondents to the motion for an injunction.

GASP attorney Stuart Sugarman said he is still discussing with his clients what options they have left to try and stop incineration, which they contend will cause brain damage in young and sensitive populations living near the depot. State and federal regulators for air quality deny that claim.

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