Legislation Could Deprive Texas of Hundreds of Millions in Revenue
AUSTIN, TEXAS – On Tuesday, the Texas House of Representatives is set to debate and possibly vote on House Bill 2692, which includes financial and regulatory giveaways to the operator of theradioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas.
Public Citizen, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition (SEED), and other environmental groups in Texas oppose the legislation, as do a coalition of oil and gas companies concerned about contamination of the Permian Basin. The bill would allow more deadly radioactive waste to be dumped in Texas and would reduce – possibly by as much as a billion dollars – the fees imposed to manage this waste.
“Texans from Gov. Abbott on down oppose high-level radioactive waste storage in Texas,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, “This bill doesn’t effectively ban high-level storage and includes unacceptable giveaways to the waste dump operator. The bill could ultimately cost Texas hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. It also includes exemptions from antitrust laws, anti-discrimination laws, requirements to deal in good faith, and safety measures such as containerization of waste. It’s a raw deal for Texas, and lawmakers should reject it.”
House Bill 2692, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Brooks Landgraf of Odessa would reduce some state fees on an existing lower-level waste facility in Andrews County in West Texas. A 5% fee now paid to Texas by WCS would be eliminated, and a 20% surcharge paid to Texas for nuclear waste stored in Texas from other states would be cut from 20% to 5%.
The bill purports to prohibit high-level nuclear waste dumping in Texas. But the president of the company that would benefit from the legislation – Waste Control Specialists – told the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development this year that it will not withdraw its federal application to dump high-level nuclear waste in Texas. HB 2692 and its Senate companion, SB 1046, also relax safety measures, creating radioactive risks.
“This bill is a nuclear Trojan Horse,” said Karen Hadden director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition. “When you open it up you find that the ban on high level nuclear waste is written deceptively and won’t work. It will double the amount of permitted waste, weaken state regulations and cheat the state of the money it will need to clean up the mess.”
Communities around Texas are voicing their opposition to storage of high-level radioactive waste. Dallas, Bexar, El Paso, Midland and Nueces Counties have each passed resolutions opposing high-level nuclear waste storage. City councils in San Antonio, Midland and Denton – representing 5.4 million Texans – have passed similar resolutions.
Despite assurances from the nuclear power industry, there is no failsafe way to prevent potentially catastrophic contamination from radioactive waste storage. Just last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that an underground nuclear waste storage tank in Washington state appears to be leaking contaminated liquid into the ground. In fact, almost every nuclear waste site has leaked, costing more that the federal government has been appropriated for clean-up.
Public Citizen urges Texas lawmakers to vote no on HB 2692 and its Senate companion, SB 1046.