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Low-Level Radioactive Waste Site The Road Not Taken Austin It was when newly appointed Texas Low-Level Radioactive James Allison started asking about access to the proposed site that a glimmer entered the eyes of McMullen County Judge Claude Franklin, Jr. The 80 or so people who had driven in from Tilden that morning started to look at each other a little anxiously and some turned around to watch Judge Franklin as he sat in the back of the meeting room of the Stephen F. Austin Building taking it all in. It seems that a county road connects State Highway 97 with the site in McMullen County the staff of the LLRWDA had chosen as the most suitable for the shallow landfill repository for all the low-level nuclear waste generated in Texas. Allison, a Travis County attorney, said that it has been his experience that the upgrading of a county road \(to handle loads required of the county commissioners court. In addition, if the county road is upgraded to a farm-to-market road, the county is responsible for the condemnation to obtain the necessary right of way. “Do you agree with me,” Allison asked the authority’s other board members and staff during the February 22 board meeting, “that having access to the site is one of the central problems [in choosing a waste disposal site]? At present I know of no means to compel a county to make the necessary changes to a county road or provide right of way to a farmto-market road. [The proposed McMullen County site] might be accessible only to pickup trucks and helicopters. If we can’t get to it, we can’t use it.” Allison’s questioning stopped the staff of the LLRWDA dead in its tracks. LLRWDA general manager Rick Jacobi indicated that he thought some route could be worked out around this potential roadblock, saying later that he doesn’t believe it to be a “fatal flaw.” But, in answering Allison’s questions, Jacobi did not allude to a letter he had received from Judge Franklin concerning access by county road. In a letter dated January 28, 1985, Judge Franklin informed Jacobi, “The Commissioners Court of McMullen County has agreed unanimously that . . . no changes or improvements will be made to the county road running from State Highway 97 to the potential site.” On February 8, Jacobi had answered that he hoped they could “arrive at an amicable compromise.” At the February 22 meeting, the spirit of compromise was not in the air. They had come from Tilden in McMullen County, Pleasanton in Atascosa County, Corpus Christi, and Asherton in Dimmit County. Most of the Tilden contingent sported gimme caps reading “No Nuclear Dump.” A couple of cowboys stood outside the meeting room while one spit tobacco into a styrofoam cup before telling a third man, “I’m just waiting for the vote.” McMullen County is home to a number of brush cowboys. One tenth of the county’s population had journeyed to Austin that day to wait for the vote. A representative of the county told the Authority board that McMullen “will resist with all legal and political means available.” Not the words of compromise. Since McMullen County lies in the Nueces River watershed, representatives of the Nueces River Authority and Corpus Christi were also present to voice their opposition to the proposed site. They were joined by another group of South Texas residents -these from Dimmit County to the west, chosen by the LLRWDA staff as the second most suitable disposal site in the state. Beatrice Cortes, a member of the group and representative of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which includes the site near Asherton, told the board members that they had not been informed of the human side of the sites selected. While a large percentage of radioactive nuclear waste consists of contaminated medical materiel, the counties chosen for dumping the waste, Cortes reminded the board, have poor health care. “The hospitals are elsewhere,” said this former president of San Antonio COPS \(Communities nuclear technology are enjoyed by those at the University of Texas at Austin, she said, the waste gets dumped on the poorest counties. It is true that the semi-arid nature of these South Texas counties, while unable to support large population centers, does attract shallow-land burial enthusiasts. It is also true, however, that at present, the University of Texas system CONTENTS FEATURES 2 Stronger All the Time Geoffrey Rips 3 The Road Not Taken Geoffrey Rips 5 Stormy Days for Blue-Sky Laws Dave Denison 8 The State as Moral Agent Linda B. Team 9 The LCRA Lands a Deal Bill Bishop 15 Reagan Youth James Ridgeway DEPARTMENTS 15 Political Intelligence 18 Dialogue 21 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 17 Making Hay in Louisiana Peter McHugh 19 The Unfinished World Geoffrey Rips 20 A Movie of Substance Elise Nakhnikian Afterword: 22 Sunday, Elgin, 1962 Melanie Hendricks Cover by Tom Ballenger THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3