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Amarillo Says No to the Dump THE TEXAS Department of Agriculture’s latest public opinion study, released in February, indicates at least 80 percent of residents surveyed in Amarillo and nearby counties oppose locating the dumpsite in the Panhandle. It is the first poll of Amarillo opinion about the dump and dumpsite testing. In Amarillo, 81 percent of those polled would not “allow” construction of a repository in Deaf Smith percent said they supported the dump; six percent were not sure. In Deaf Smith and Oldham Counties, 80 percent opposed the dump; 14 percent supported the project; six percent weren’t sure. “In the Deaf Smith-Oldham area, 64 percent of those who had heard of ‘site characterization’ oppose it; in Amarillo 59 percent oppose it; and in the other rural counties 68 percent oppose it,” according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The survey is based on 1388 random telephone interviews conducted in October 1986. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It also probed opinion about potential economic gains and losses because of the dumpsite project. In Amarillo, 91 percent thought it was unlikely that someone in their household will get a job at the repository. In Deaf Smith County, 80 percent \\ did not expect dumpsite employment. In Amarillo, 74 percent agreed with the statement: “People won’t want to buy food or agricultural products from Deaf Smith County if the repository is built there;” 95 percent agreeed that “agriculturerelated businesses are very important to the Amarillo economy.” Of those Amarillo residents who had heard of the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly plant 17 miles northeast of town, 80 percent said they would allow the plant to continue operating if they had a say in the matter. T.F. Two top agricultural producers, Holly Sugar Corp. and Frito-Lay, Inc., have threatened to stop buying local sugar beets, corn and potatoes for their local factories if nuclear waste is stored 2500 feet below the irrigated farm fields here. But local chambers of commerce have developed incentives to woo the incoming scientists. “We hope they’ll come,” said Dick Harris of The First National Bank of Amarillo. Harris and about 35 other Amarillo bankers, realtors and civic leaders traveled to Columbus, Ohio, in February to speak with the geologists and engineers who will be moving to Texas. Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus has coordinated previous Texas dumpsite tests and will ,serve as the “integrating contractor” for the upcoming “site characterization” in Deaf Smith County. During a 90-minute slide show and wine-and-cheese reception, Amarillo representatives answered questions about the local schools, health care facilities and real estate market. “What we-did was just to be gracious enough to tell them all about Amarillo and try to prepare them for the move from Ohio to Texas,” said Dale Young of Energas Co. “We do care about the people that are coming to Amarillo because we want to be friends with them after they get here.” Linda McClain, a DOE spokeswoman in Columbus, said Amarillo realtors have been asking for lists of staff scheduled to be transferred to Texas. “We got lots of phone calls from people who want to make pitches,” McClain said. “There’s going’ to be a lot of competition for our business.” And so the decision came to let local chambers of commerce organize presentations. Amarillo and Hereford delegations made separate presentations one week apart in Battelle’s auditorium. Dumpsite opponent George Drain of the Nuclear Waste Task Force called the trips to Columbu’s, “stupidity. They are willing to prostitute themselves,” Drain charged. Terry FitzPatrick is a reporter’ for an Amarillo television station. Drain is skeptical that a full 1000 workers will come to the Panhandle, because Congress has banned a major type of ‘dumpsite testing, and scientists “cannot get onto the land until they secure leases.” Citizens opposed to the repository will seek a court injunction to prevent any testing of Deaf Smith County land, Drain said. Congress has directed the DOE not to drill an exploratory test shaft in Deaf Smith County during this fiscal year. But DOE spokesman Brian Quirke in Argonne, Illinois, said that won’t stop all local testing here. “Congress did not prohibit us from drilling much smaller bore holes that we will use in characterizing those areas,” Quirke said. “We are not going against what the Congress said.” As members of Amarillo’s delegation were packing their bags for the Columbus trip, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower unveiled a new public opinion survey to the Texas Corn Growers Association convention in “Four out of five Panhandle residents don’t want the Department of Energy’s radioactive time bomb ticking in their back yard,” Hightower said. Larry Milner, Executive Director of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, was undaunted. “No one is seeking the repository,” Milner said. “The fact that they are coming to do a five-year characterization is an accomplished fact. Therefore it is irrelevant at this state what public opinion polls say.” When the DOE announced in 1984 that Deaf Smith County was one of three finalists for the dumpsite and would undergo extensive testing, it was difficult to find anyone in the Panhandle who would publicly say the dump or the tests might be good for the area. Then in December, 1985, the Texas Department of Agriculture surprised some observers when its survey team found that 35 percent of local business owners polled thought the repository testing might be “a good thing for your business;” 49 percent thought testing would be bad for business; 16 percent weren’t sure \(based on 380 telephone The same study found 44 percent thought “my business will benefit from the money the Department of Energy Just What the Chamber Ordered THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11