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Affairs Committee argued that “preserving the Authority’s present policy favoring single-state status is the most prudent action.” But the realization that other states and out-of-state utility companies are willing to help pay for a facility they can ship low-level waste to caused the Legislature to rethink its go-it-alone stance. During the last regular session Sen. Bill Sims, D-San Angelo, sponsored Senate Bill 553, a proposal to allow Texas to enter into agreements with other states to receive waste. The bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by Gov. Richards. The passage of SB 553 was a plus for Austin lawyer/lobbyist Sarah Weddington, the former state legislator best known for representing the pro-choice side in the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case in 1973. More recently, Weddington, working as a lobbyist for Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co., is pushing the Legislature, the Governor and the Authority to open Texas’ dump to other states, specifically, Maine. In a telephone interview Weddington defended a proposed Maine-Texas compact and described what Maine intends to ship to Texas if an agreement is reached: “There’s no liquids. It’s basically gloves and pieces of construction materials and solids. I believe that Maine is the most safety-conscious state and has the least amount of material and can economically help us with a lot of the cost so [the dump] is a first-rate facility.” Maine Yankee reportedly is willing to help with $20 to $30 million and Texas electric companies, who will end up paying the big user fees, are unlikely to walk away from the offer. “I think it’s a call the state has to make,” said Graham Painter of HL&P, Project. “It depends on how it’s done. It may be that more users may spread the cost over more people,” Painter said. The governor’s office, however, seems to be sending a pay-to-play message to utilities in Texas. “By forming a compact and lowering the costs of building the facility, all you’re really offering is rate relief to STP and Comanche Peak,” Moulder said. “My preference would be to go ahead and let them bear the full cost of that facility. People need to understand that part of the price of having these generators is the disposal cost.” That message blurs, however, when Moulder explains Gov. Richard’s reasons for signing SB 553 last August: “If you don’t enter into a compact, under the federal legislation you can be forced to accept all of the waste from the states under the interstate transportation laws, because waste is nothing more than a commodity that moves up and down the highways. Our first choice would be to go it alone, to take care of our own waste. But if that opens us up to being the nation’s dumping ground, then we’re not willing to do that.” Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas director of Public Citizen, a natiowide consumer advocacy group, doesn’t disagree with Weddington’s gloves and two-by-four waste manifest. But Smith, who has worked for more than 10 years as a public-interest lobbyist, suggests that gloves are just the beginning. “The decommissioning of the Maine Yankee Nuclear power plant is what’s prompting all this concern and activity. Probably, it will be decommissioned within the next five years. Public Citizen has released a report that claims that when Maine Yankee’s nuclear plant is decommissioned, it will create 475,000 cubic feet of low-level waste and will require 1,150 trucks to haul it away perhaps to Texas. And the proposed dump might not be open only to Maine. “We’ve talked with Vermont and Maine so far,” Moulder said. “We’ve had telephone conversations with Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.” There is even speculation that a Texas dump that opens ahead of others could be federalized. Most states are far behind the federal government’s 1993 deadline, and after the first few sites are opened there might be no choice but to federalize them and use those facilities for the entire nation’s waste. Nebraska already has passed a law that automatically suspends licensing proceedings for its dump if fewer than two other states have facilities up and running by the time the Nebraska dump is ready to go into business. No other state seems to want the distinction of having the only dump open. In Texas, however, the Authority is in a hurry. So much of a hurry that it is studying a proposed site, making the purchase of the land, and completing the license application all at the same time an apparent violation of the procedures outlined in the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority Act, according to arguments put forth by members of the Texas Nuclear Responsibility Network. Sub-chapter D of the Act requires that the hydrology, geology, geomorphology, arcaheology, demography, land use, and wildlife management of the area must be thoroughly studied before an offer or purchase of a site is made. The Authority is in the process of buying the 16,000-acre Faskin Ranch, located within the “Box” described in HB 2665, before any studies have been completed. The Authority seems to take the position that earlier studies have established the region as suitable court rulings notwithstanding. “The Authority has been studying the surrounding area for over 10 years and it feels quite confident the site will be acceptable,” said Bob Avant, deputy director for the Low Level Waste Authority. The governor’s office contends that the buy, test, and permit route is more efficient. “It was cheaper to go ahead and buy the property rather than pay fees to landowners to have access so wells could be drilled to test the ground water,” Moulder said. The state will pay approximately $900,000 to a Houston holding company that owns the ranch. The ranch, according to Avant, will be sold if it is not approved as a dump site. Public Citizen’s Smith disagrees with the process: “It’s kind of like closing the barn door after all the horses have escaped. The Authority has already committed to purchasing the property and in essence made its decision where to locate the dump without having done an adequate analysis of what the people in the community think, and more, what kind of problems might come up in a public hearing. One of the purposes of a public hearing is to allow those people who are most expert about a given piece of land to share their knowledge with people making decisions where to locate the dump. This is a clear example of a process done backwards.” The process is different in other states. Illinois and Maine require voter approval to open a dump; North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Nebraska fund and empower communitybased review boards to enter, inspect and close down facilities if violations occur. None of these protections exist in Texas. The issue has received little attention in Texas, although it has become an issue in Mexico, as officials there have expressed concern about location of nuclearand other hazardous-waste dumps along the Rio Grande. On March 21, hundreds of Texans and Mexicans blocked bridge traffic between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras and El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to protest the plans to make the border a dumping ground Some 350 citizens showed up at a public hearing on the nuclear dump proposal April 21 in Sierra Blanca. Most, according to local press accounts, opposed the dump at Sierra Blanca. The Sierra Blanca hearing, according to Susan Odom, public information director for the Authority, was the only public hearing required by law during this phase of the process. In May, Odom said, it is probable that the Authority’s board of directors will vote on designating the Faskin Ranch as the official site. Fifteen months of site characterization will follow before a permit is requested from the Texas Water Commission, the agency responsible for final approval of a license. Examiners with the Water Commission will hear testimony from both the Authority and opponents of the Faskin Ranch site. In a press release issued at the hearing in Sierra Blanca, the Texas Nuclear Responsibility Network requested Gov. Richards to ask for an attorney general’s ruling on the legality of the procedures that the Authority has thus far taken. Don Gardner, of the Nuclear Responsibility Network, warned that “utility companies want a fast-track for dump sites because they intend to build a new generation of nuclear reactors and know that public opinion will not allow it unless the public believes the waste problem has been solved. One local hearing is not adequate, Farenthold said. She argues that the whole process discourages participation by the people who most directly affected by the decisions: “You have this diffusion of power. You have the Legislature into it, then you have the Authority into it, then you have the governor’s office into it. You go from one to the other. Often it’s just busy work and it keeps everyone running. We’re no match for lobbyists who can put their whole time and their staff on it. There’s nothing new. It’s just the same in the New Texas as it was in the one I knew 20 years ago.” The Authority predicts that if all goes well the facility will be permitted and open by 1996. “Right on target,” Smith said, “for the decommissioning of Maine Yankee.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15