Page 16


the lectern at the front of the House. “What we are talking about is nuclear waste and a huge potential liability for the state.” Warren Chisum is not exactly an Earth Firster. But he took on a pack of low-level-waste lobbyists who had laid back during two months of House committee hearings, then spent two intense weeks aggressively pushing an amendment to open the state up to unregulated disposal of Department of Energy radioactive waste which includes tons of stockpiled weapons waste. The amendment was offered by Gary Walker, a Republican who represents Andrews in the far west corner of the Panhandle. \(“I represent a county,” Walker said, “that could use the jobs created by a low level waste site to Chisum had anticipated the amendment, and warned Walker that he would use a parliamentary point of order to kill it when the bill came to the floor. He then asked Speaker Pete Laney to postpone debate until later in the day, “as a courtesy to Representative Walker, to give him some time to talk to his people.” Asked if Walker had the votes, Chisum laughed. “I guess we’ll never know will we?” When the bill came to the floor, Walker offered his amendment and Chisum challenged it with a point of order. Because House rules do not allow amendments that reverse the intent of the bills they would amend, he prevailed. With Chisum’s bill back where he wanted it, the House resumed debate, some of which clearly illustrated the utter folly of nuclear energy and weapons programs. For example, Chisum argued that plutonium waste, with a halflife of 35,000 years, is far safer stored above ground in “assured isolation mausoleums” than in trenches a position supported by the Sierra Club. Yet when he cited the 35,000-year half-life as a reason why plutonium should be monitored by the state Department of Health rather than the Natural Resource Conservation Commission, “until it no longer is a threat to public health and is safe to put in the ground,” he sounded pretty loopy. \(Each of those agencies, after all, will have to go through the legislative sunset process 3,500 times before the plutonium waste is cool enough to A Warren Chisum at the lectern cians at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Amarillo doing open air burns of solvent that contained high explosives and plutonium “which doesn’t go away when you burn it!” had Chisum stealing lines from Mavis Belisle of Amarillo’s anti-nuke Peace Farm. Chisum even raised the spectre of accidental nuclear detonation, observing that “if they make a,mistake at Pantex, we all die.” All of this to illustrate the difference between the Department of Energy waste that would be buried in the Andrews dump, and the power plant and hospital waste to be stored in a Texas dump to be established, under the federal TexasMaine-Vermont Compact. While the chairman held forth from the front mike, Walker and Waste Control regrouped, as Walker moved to delete several critical lines from the bill which had the same effect as his earlier amendment without being technically “an amendment.” \(When dealing with House procedure, it’s Alan Pogue always helpful to have a former speaker and An utterly sober Chisum pleaded with the House not to allow any changes that would open the door to “fifty million cubic tons of Department of Energy [Defense] waste that is currently looking for a home.” Environmental Regulation Committee Vice Chair Ray Allen, always on the side of industry and averse to environmental groups, warned the House that it was poised to approve a measure that would allow “a private company to make a profit by disposing of fifty million cubic feet of Department of Energy waste in Texas.” Pasadena Republican Robert Talton \(who also serves on Environmental Regulation where he is an implacable opponent to environmental created by private companies, to be cleaned up later at taxpayers’ expense. See “Toxic Waste,” page 25 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15 MAY 14, 1999