POT CALLS KETTLE BLACK. The West Texas waste wars are heating up again. During the last session, Envirocare, a Utahbased firm, made a pitch to become the contractor for Texas’ long-delayed waste site. Envirocare and its lobbying team \(including shoulder from the Lege, and Envirocare C.E.O. Khosrow Semnani thinks he knows why. In mid-April Smnani filed suit against his main competitor in Texas, Waste Control Specialists, operators of a huge dump in Andrews County and leading contenders to be the first to bury radioactive waste in Texas. Semnani claims former W.C.S. president Ken Bingham \(the company is now controlled by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons and former Congressman Kent dirt on him to sully his reputation in Texas. Bingham got some pretty good dirt for his money. According to court documents obtained by the Associated Press, W.C.S. representatives told Texas legislators and other engaged in illegal arms trading, diverting radioactive waste to weapons brokers, financing Middle East terrorists, and threatening to that Semnani used sexual relationships with female regulators to obtain inside regulatory that Semnani has illegal relationships with environmental regulators that are being covered up by the highest levels of state governthat it is not legally permitted to take, inthat Semnani used money from a state environmental fund to buy real estate in Hawaii; And he’s got a funny name, too. But all mudslinging aside, Semnani does have more than a few black marks on his record. In 1997, Utah authorities uncovered an unusual relationship between Semnani and a Utah state regulator who oversaw Envirocare of Utah’s operations, in which large amounts of , cash and gold coins changed hands for several years. Semnani claimed the regulator, Larry Anderson, was extorting the cash, so it wasn’t really a bribe. Anderson must have extorted some tax help, too, because Semnani eventually pled guilty to helping the regulator file a phony tax return. His Utah dump also has a pretty atrocious compliance record. Residents of Ward County might need a representative at the defamation trial. Envirocare has targeted the West Texas county for a new dump site. REEFER MADNESS. Drug hysteria hit Wichita Falls last month. On April 19, Midwestern State University police led a roomby-room drug search of the three main campus dorms, accompanied by police from surrounding towns and counties in cooperation with the North Texas Drug Task Force. According to reports in the Wichita Falls Times-Record News, the search used drugsniffing dogs to select rooms for searching. If a student \(or an absent student’s roomthey would obtain warrants to search anyway. When the search was completed, the officers had found nothing. “We’re doing an assessment as to whether there’s a drug problem at M.S.U.,” said university police chief Mike Hagy. “We used the dogs as a tool to do the assessment.” Hagy told the student newspaper that the dog’s alert provides the probable cause for the search. The next day, Will Harrell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, pointed out that students do not surrender their rights as citizens just because they live on campus, and that any drugs found in the search would probably not be admitted as evidence in court. Hagy was unrepentant. “Lots of universities and colleges across the country did what we did,” Hagy said, and pointed out that M.S.U. President Louis Rodriguez was fully aware of the planned search. University spokeswoman Janus Buss told Political Intelligence that President Rodriguez personally approved the search in response to rumors of drugs in the dorms. Buss described the search as “perfectly legal” and a common college practice, although she could not name any other colleges which had conducted such searches. She said that while there are no current plans to repeat the search, the administration “does not rule out” another raid. Local response was not so positive. The student paper editorialized against the search: “Someone please tell the police chief and M.S.U. administration … that this is the United States of America.” “Just because you rent from the university,” Wichilan editor Alisha Ferguson told Polit ical Intelligence, “you don’t expect to give up your rights.” TRN city editor and columnist Steve Clements said he was “disappointed” in the M.S.U. approval of the raid, writing that the search “didn’t accomplish anything except to bring a little Nazi-era Germany home to Wichita Falls. Consider it a history lesson, I guess. “I know, I know. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about. “That’s what British soldiers said while they ransacked the homes of early patriots, who later wrote a Constitution that specifically forbade unreasonable searches and seizures. We fought a revolution over that….” CLOUDS GATHERING. At press time May 3, the T.N.R.C.C. was poised to grant emission permits to a new American Acryl plant planned for the Bayport/Clear Lake area. The plant, a joint venture of Elf Atochem and Nippon Shokubai, is widely opposed in the community, and was recently the subject of an Austin press conference by Clean Air Clear Lake, organized by residents of the nearby Lakepointe Forest subdivision. Describing themselves as Republican women opposed to the environmental record of Governor Bush, the group called for a moratorium on new state air pollution permits in the Houston area, which is already subject to E.P.A. oversight for non-compliance with national clean air standards. State officials said that such a moratorium is impossible, and T.N.R.C.C. executive director Jeff Saitas said, “The question has to be, How can we clean the air, keep it clean, and still grow?” Local opposition has grown because of the pollution record of Elf Atochem \(among other problems, fined more than $100 miland because American Acryl has insisted on confidentiality concerning much of its operations, including at least thirty-seven chemicals it intends to use at the plant. Citizens are particularly concerned about the possibility of highly poisonous methyl isocyanate production of acrylic acid and was the poison that killed thousands at Bhopal, India, in 1984. But plant and state officials insist that MIC will not be emitted by the new plant, and say that although the plant will increase ozone emissions in the region, the company 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 12, 2000
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.