Political Intelligence



Hot for war, the mainstream press has largely ignored Denis Halliday, the former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq who resigned to protest the effects of the sanctions policy on the Iraqi population. Halliday is now waging a personal campaign against the sanctions, and will speak at U.T.–Austin Wednesday, February 24, at 7 p.m. in Bass Lecture Hall, on “The Human Consequences of War and Sanctions in Iraq.”

As head of the oil-for-food program, Halliday observed first-hand the effects of sanctions. “I see the present sanctions regime representing a certain bankruptcy of ideas — simplistic and unsuccessful, without the desired results,” he said. “And I see U.N. sanctions representing unacceptable consequences for the innocent children and people of the country. There can be no justification for the death and malnutrition for which sanctions are responsible.”

For more information, call (512) 263-1883 or 471-1990. On the web, visit www.realtime.net/~liana/no_war/.


Texas communities are bracing for “Worst-Case Scenario” information soon to be available on state chemical plants and refineries. Despite fierce industry opposition, new federal rules under the Risk Management Program require companies to make public what might happen as a result of “accidental releases of toxic or flammable chemicals,” and the new information will become available this month. A “worst-case scenario” is an

industrial plant equipment failure, during which a highly toxic chemical is released and disperses within ten minutes into a vapor cloud traveling downwind. (Various sizes of such releases are not uncommon, especially along the Gulf Coast.)

For a sniff of what might be coming your way, consider this brief selection from a November 1998 Worst-Case report issued by Port Industries of Corpus Christi:


Everyone knows you can’t keep a good man down. More perplexing is the remarkable resilience of the ungood — like former Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority executive director, Rick Jacobi. Last fall, when the T.N.R.C.C. officially killed the Sierra Blanca dump he had promoted for over a decade, Jacobi was looking for a personal dump to hide in. But the vampire’s coffin had a silver lining — Jacobi’s Hudspeth County bungling had boosted the Andrews County hopes of two private waste companies (one of which, Envirocare of Texas, has re-incarnated Rick as its new vice president of operations, effective February 8). Envirocare head Norm Sunderland told Political Intelligence that Jacobi, whose duties will include lobbying the Legislature, brings “a wealth of experience in low-level waste disposal in Texas.” Indeed, by our accounting, Jacobi’s been at it for seventeen years — and over fifty million dollars — although he hasn’t disposed of anything yet (other than the state agency he worked for).

Jacobi wasn’t the only nuclear player traded in the legislative off-season. Roy Coffee, formerly of the Governor’s Office of State and Federal Relations (where he helped lobby for federal passage of the Texas-Maine-Vermont Waste Compact last year), has landed a contract with Envirocare’s competitor, Waste Control Specialists. Meanwhile, Bruce Darling, the U.T. geology grad who worked on the ill-fated Sierra Blanca license application, has been retained as a consulting hydrologist for Envirocare. (Darling’s unpublished dissertation supported the Sierra Blanca site, which sat over an aquifer; Western Andrews County, location of both private sites, also sits above an aquifer formation, so Darling’s dubious hydrology remains in demand.) On the utility front, Eddie “Munster” Selig, of the nuke industry front group Advocates for Responsible Disposal in Texas, has kept his crack lobbying team intact. Formerly boosters of Sierra Blanca (and therefore de facto opponents of privatization), the pragmatic Advocates were recently spotted in Andrews County touring both competing facilities.

To head its lobbying team, Envirocare has assembled an all-star former Speaker squad, with both Billy Clayton and Gib Lewis on board. The company’s top attorney is Vinson & Elkins’ Molly Cagle. For sheer firepower, however, it’s hard to beat the team put together by Waste Control Specialist owners Kent Hance, Ken Bigham, and Harold Simmons. Top flak Bill Miller, of the Austin P.R. firm Hillco Partners (formerly MEM-Hubble), is the latest addition to a team that includes former state senators Carl Parker, Bill Sims, and Bill Haley, and former Bush aides Reggie Bashur and Cliff Johnson.

Johnson actually represents the Andrews County Industrial Foundation, the group that brought Waste Control Specialists to town four years ago and has been the company’s biggest booster. Members of the Foundation recently traveled to Maryland, where they helped Waste Control woo the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, which is considering locating a new uranium enrichment facility on Waste Control’s current site, to be operated by both companies. Envirocare, which has worked hard in the past to scuttle Waste Control’s plans, has gotten the cold shoulder from the Industrial Foundation (though it is pushing ahead with the permitting process, despite being several years behind W.C.S.).

In the early handicapping at the Lege, Waste Control seems to have the inside track as well. Envirocare lobbyist Billy Clayton has suggested that Pete Gallego’s waste bill (H.B. 674) unfairly favors Waste Control. This would come as no surprise, since according to one insider, Waste Control actually wrote portions of the bill.