In an extraordinary row over responsibility for fines levied by New Mexico on the US Energy Department, New Mexico state officials are threatening to impose even more fines.

In an extraordinary row over responsibility for fines levied by New Mexico on the US Energy Department, New Mexico state officials are threatening to impose even more fines if the Energy Department doesn’t accept responsibility for ‘numerous violations’ described in statutory Compliance Orders issued by the state last year.
The row stems from a February 2014 accident at the federal government’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. The facility was closed for cleanup after a container of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured, exposing 22 workers and parts of the underground waste dump to contamination.
New Mexico levied over more than $54 million in fines, on the Energy Department and its contractors, following the leak, which the Energy Department is contesting, described the penalties as "capricious," and saying they should be either reduced or forgiven. Its attitude is reminiscent of a much earlier time when the national government was considered legally infallible and could not therefore be prosecuted for any crime or mistake.
Now the New Mexico Environment Department is working on a new compliance order that could include fines of more than $100 million. But because negotiations with the federal government are ongoing, officials are saying that the total penalties that could be assessed remains unclear.
Investigators are currently reviewing filmed evidence from the room where the breached container was stored. Crews have used a specially designed camera boom to obtain high-resolution images of the area around the container.
The footage is being reviewed, and investigators are expected to release a final report on the incident in the coming weeks. It is suspected that the breach stemmed from a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste that was packed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture.