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Auditors question settlement over WIPP

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New Mexico auditors are questioning a settlement with the U.S. Department of Energy over a radiation release that forced a nearly three-year shutdown of the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports auditors are concerned the agency will avoid paying hefty fines by promising to fund environmental projects under the agreement.

In a letter dated Nov. 21, Deputy State Auditor Sanjay Bhakta told Environment Secretary Butch Tongate that settlement policies should be reviewed.

The state and the Department of Energy settled last year over dozens of permit violations stemming from the mishap at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad in 2014.

At the time, the total $74 million settlement was the largest ever negotiated between a state and the Energy Department.

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