Dialogue

NOT SUPPOSED TO DISPOSE

For all the coverage of the nuclear waste dump issue The Texas Observer has printed the last few years, I found it a little odd to read the Political Intelligence section of June 8th’s edition. There, it was stated that “For the third time, Simmons’ high dollar lobbying effort to get Waste Control Specialists (WCS), his Andrews County dumping firm, licensed to dispose of low-level radioactive waste went down in flames at the Legislature.”

This is not the case. The Andrews facility has been licensed to handle low-level radioactive waste for a number of years. The license I provide at my website is dated February 1999, but there you can also find NRC shipment manifests from March 1998. That stuff is at http://www.andrewsnuclearwastedump.org/wcsinternal.html, and can also be obtained at the Texas Department of Health.

In reviewing the recent Legislature, it is very important to keep in mind that WCS lobbyists will come back next time to attempt to push the law as far as they can, but as we acknowledge this, we must never forget the dangers and very real potential for disaster with this existing site. At this point, contamination to the aquifers at the site could happen anytime from now until November 2004, when the license will expire. Before that happens WCS will submit another license for approval in the renewal process, which judging from the past, will also extend what they are licensed to handle.

If the Ogallala is poisoned and the states that drink from it seek damages from Texas for having licensed the dump in such a volatile area, it will likely come out of our pockets. How can the operational site be shut down? People can hope and push for three things: nullification of the current license (unlikely but possible), rejection of license renewal by TNRCC, and a moratorium on dumping nuclear waste in Texas.

Tristan Mendozavia e-mail

The Editors respond:

Our reporting was accurate: WCS has no license to dispose of radioactive waste in Texas. They do have a license to process and store such waste, which they have been doing, as the writer observes, for some time now, and the point is well taken. In fact, WCS has quietly built up a considerable amount of the waste, lending momentum, perhaps, to their possible plan to begin disposing (i.e. burying) federal government waste without a state disposal license. As we have reported before, this is a gray area of the law, since Department of Energy contractors are technically not regulated by state authorities, but by the DOE itself. It has been the federal government’s policy, however, not to give disposal contracts to dumpers that do not have state disposal licenses, a policy that WCS has been vigorously lobbying in Washington to change, for obvious reasons. Stay tuned.

GOVERNOR VETO

In the aftermath of Governor Rick Perry’s veto of 82 legislative bills on “Bloody Sunday” lies his inexplicable veto of Texas’ Public Accommodation Act. That law would have prevented discrimination by public businesses against persons because of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex.

What possible justification is there, in the 21st century, to allow businesses to discriminate against minority persons and women? More to the point, why does the Governor not see fit to help eradicate this vestige of the state’s sordid history of racism?

The ironic part of this legislation is that the minority communities agreed to cap any punitive damages against errant businesses at $500. As he did with other pieces of legislation that he vetoed, the Governor said not a word during the legislative session as to any problems he had with the bill. He simply killed it.

Vetoing a law that prevents discrimination in public accommodations is a pathetic commentary on the Governor’s commitment to equal rights. Indeed, his veto encourages discrimination by sending a message that business establishments which discriminate will face no penalty under Texas law. So much for being the Governor of all the people.

James C. Harrington Director Texas Civil Rights Project

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