Following comments from an Alabama congressman, the Morrow County Court has declared its opposition to burning non-stockpile weapons from other states at the Umatilla Chemical Depot's incinerator plant.
Morrow County's opposition is voiced by Judge Terry Tallman, who said the court is reiterating its position because Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala., told an Alabama newspaper that Oregon supports burning non-stockpile materiels. "Materiel" refers to military weapons and associated tools.
According to Tallman, Riley recently approved legislation to let non-stockpile items be transported across state lines to be destroyed even though he opposes such actions in his home state, where a chemical weapons incinerator is being constructed.
"One of the things he had said is we are in favor of keeping our incinerator running past the dates of incineration ... and that we wanted to burn non-stockpile materiel and that is not the case at all," Tallman said on Thursday.
Non-stockpile materiels include weapons that have been buried and uncovered, and items from former chemical weapons production sites. Much of it was used for training military for the first World War. Such weapons are believed to be buried in 38 states and U.S. territories.
Only five-ton containers and 73 warheads are included in Oregon's non-stockpile, all of which are stored at the depot. The warheads and containers are permitted to be destroyed in Umatilla. Morrow County's opposition is toward such items from coming in from other states.
Tallman's concerns may not be an issue: Oregon has repeatedly declared its opposition to allowing such weapons to enter the state.
"Any chemical-agent-related materiel is not going to cross over the state line," said Trisha Kirk, the permit coordinator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Lt. Col. Christopher Ross, the Army's program manager for non-stockpile materiel, backed up Kirk's assertion on Friday.
"The Army has no plans of bringing in non-stockpile systems to Oregon," Ross said.
And even if a congressional study finds benefits for destroying non-stockpile materiels in regional incinerators, the states with the incinerators still have the final say, Ross explained. Hypothetically, if VX rockets were found in Washington, the state would have to petition Oregon to accept the items for disposal.
If the materiels needed to be transported through a third state to reach the incinerator, the Army would need to notify each state of which roads would be used to transport the items. Permission by the third state isn't needed, Ross said, because such transportation is already OK'd by federal law.
Congress mandated a study last fall looking at whether the nation's nine incinerator sites can be used for destroying materiel that's not part of nation's original chemical weapon stockpiles. Doing so could save money and help keep the nation on schedule with the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that lays out a schedule for destroying chemical weapons.
A separate program to destroy the non-stockpile items is under way, which would likely mean mobile units traveling to areas to dispose of the materiel. Only sites in Utah and Arkansas are permitted for the emergency disposal of non-stockpile weapons and tools.