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EDITORIAL Nuclear Affirmative Action For ten years and $40 million, the state of Texas has been working to establish a low-level radioactive waste disposal site in far West Texasin order, we have been told by Governors Ann Richards and George W Bush, to protect Texas from becoming a dumping ground for other states. Fed eral law the governors’ argument goes, requires states to form compacts, with one of the compact states providing a permitted dumpsite for the other compact members. Governors Richards and Bush have repeatedly cited federal law as their justification for entering into a compact with Maine and Vermon4 two states interested in disposing their nuclear waste in Sierra Blancathe small pool; and predomi nantly Hispanic community that already receives daily trainloads of sewage sludge from New York 0 n October 7, the House voted by a 309-106 margin to approve the Texas-Maine-Vermont Compact. In the thirty-member Texas dele gation, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Ruben Hinojosa of Mercedes; Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi, Sylvestre Reyes of El Paso, Ciro Rodriguez and Henry Bonilla of San Antonio, and Ron Paul of Surfside voted against the Compact bill. \(Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio did not vote but has openly opposed the Sierra Blanca dumpsite. Bonilla and Paul were the only Republicans to vote The floor opposition to the dump was led by Lloyd Doggett, who over the protest of a compact sponsor, Republican Joe Barton of Ennis, amended the bill to restrict use of the dumpsite to Texas, Maine, and Vermont. Governors Bush and Richards had repeatedly reassured the public that only these states would be allowed to dispose of nuclear waste in Sierra Blanca, and Doggett’ s amendment would codify that promise rather than leave the decision to a commission appointed by the governor. “High-powered lobbyists,” Doggett said, “lobbied the Legislature of Texas to accept this Compact on the grounds it would protect Texas, and that Texas would be teamed up with two little states way up in New England that probably could not generate very much waste to be dumped here….” Barton’s opposition to the three-state-only amendment says a great deal about the promises made by Governors Bush and Richards. \(See “From The dumpsite at Sierra Blanca, regardless of what Richards, Bush, and the utility lob byists say, becomes a better financial deal if more states dump nuclear waste in it. Rick Jacobi of the Texas Low-Level Waste Disposal Authority has said as much.”The site is designed for 100,000 cubic feet per year, which would cost about $160 per cubic foot,” Jacobi told the Houston Business Journal. At 60,000 cubic feet per year, he said, the price would be “$250 per cubic foot.” This is really about driving down the disposal rates for utilities like Houston Lighting & Power and Texas Utilities, which own the only two nuclear power plants in the state. Before Maine and Vermont were recruited, Texas turned away Washington, D.C., which generates very little waste, and ignored Attorney General Dan Morales’ opinion that Texas could “go it alone” on waste disposal. The more states in the Compact, the cheaper the rate of disposal for the Texas utilities, which now shift some of their costs to ratepayers in Maine and Vermontand onto the backs of people living in Sierra Blanca. The Senate is expected to pass the Compact bill sometime after October 20, and for dumpsite opponents the legislative fight now shifts to keeping the Doggett amendment in the bill. Opponents have already begun lobbying the White House, hoping that President Clinton will veto the site. They cite a number of reasons why the Compact should be vetoed: geologic unsuitability of the site, its proximity to the Rio Grande, its possible effect on tourism in the Big Bend parks. But there are several compelling political reasons for the Clinton Administration to veto the Compact. The Sierra Blanca dumpsite has become a George W. Bush project, and Democrats can only win by stopping it and taking the creditwhether their next presidential candidate is Al Gore \(the enviGephardt \(the clean-border House minority the Minnesota senator who will offer an environmental racism important reason is the overt environmental racism that explicitly informed the decision to locate a nuclear dumpsite in Sierra Blanca. Before Sierra Blanca was selected, when the poor and predominantly Hispanic border town of Fort Hancock was the designated site, the Hispanic-West Texas siting plan was supported by overt racism. Consider the summary of the poll Texas A&M professors David B. Hill and James Ayer did for the Nuclear Waste Disposal Authority in 1984: The findings of this survey suggest that a broad-based public information campaign designed to familiarize the general public with all aspects of waste disposal siting might prove detrimental…. A preferred methodology might be to develop public information campaigns targeted at special populations. One population that might benefit from such a campaign is Hispanics. This group is the least informed of all segments of the population. The Authority should be aware, however, that increasing the level of knowledge of Hispanics may simply increase opposition to the site. This is an affirmative action dump, designed for the Hispanic community. If that’s not grounds for a veto, it’s a strong argument for an environmental justice lawsuit that residents of Sierra Blanca should file if Bill Clinton signs this bill.L.D. OCTOBER 24, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3