Dec. 27, 2010
Texans Outraged With Plan to Greatly Expand Radioactive Waste Disposal
More than 5,000 Citizens Flood Texas Radioactive Waste Commission With Comments, Concerns
AUSTIN – Alarmed with a plan to ship radioactive waste from 36 states into Texas, more than 5,000 citizens flooded state officials with comments and concerns over the holiday weekend.
The response clearly shows that the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission needs to slow the process down so it can carefully consider all the public feedback, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.
Last week, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition detailed a slew of problems associated with the plan to expand radioactive waste shipments to a dump in Andrews County. Afterwards, CREDO Action joined the groups in urging Texans to submit comments to the radioactive waste commission.
Current rules allow radioactive waste shipments only from Vermont. Before changing the rules, Texas law requires that the commission make a reasonable attempt to consider all public comments. It’s unlikely the commission could do that in time for its Jan. 4 meeting to consider the plan.
“It’s impossible to give each comment the attention it deserves and to do a reasoned response to comments. Simple division shows that if you divide 5,000 comments by a 40 hour work week that results in the commission’s sole staffer having to read 125 comments per hour or more that two a minute,” Smith said. “The sole commission staffer simply cannot do an adequate job reviewing and preparing responses to comments that will be given to the commissioners at their Jan. 4 meeting.
“It would be irresponsible for Texas radioactive waste commissioners to move forward with this project without taking the time to sift through all of the public’s concerns,” Smith said. “We’d urge the commission to postpone the hearing until they have had time to review each comment. That’s the least commissioners can do before considering new rules that could allow Texas to become the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground.”
While routes are not yet designated, potential transportation routes would take waste from the Gulf Coast area on Interstate 10 through Houston and San Antonio; waste from southern states would be trucked on I-20 and I-30 though Dallas and Forth Worth; Midwestern and Northeastern waste would be driven on I-40 and I-27 though Lubbock and Amarillo; and waste from Western states would be driven though the cities of El Paso and Odessa taking I-10 and I-20, according to Martin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates.
The proposed dump would be operated by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), which is owned by Harold Simmons, a politically powerful Republican who helped bankroll the Swift Boat attacks on Sen. John Kerry and who, according to Texans for Public Justice, has given Texas Gov. Rick Perry $1.12 million over the past decade, including $500,000 in 2010, making Simmons the No. 2 all-time individual donor to the governor.
The commission proposed rules earlier this year for such an expansion but withdrew them after receiving more than 3,000 comments from the public, most of them adamantly opposed to importation. On Nov. 3, the morning after the elections, the commission announced the rules would be re-posted with only minor changes.
“We are grateful that the CREDO activist community joined in this fight,” said Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition. “Their efforts helped us surpass last summer’s turnout of comments and has demonstrated how strong the opposition is to this risky idea.
“Commissioners thought they could slip these new rules through under cover of the holidays but more than 5,000 Texans have just told them, ‘not so fast.’ ” Hadden said. “The commission should postpone these rules until both the Texas and Vermont legislatures – and the incoming Vermont governor – can consider the matter. Building a national nuclear waste dump in Texas violates the intent of the original Texas-Vermont agreement, which would limit the waste and raises a host of serious safety concerns that lawmakers need to consider.”