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loophole, any other entityincluding a foreign governmentcan opt into the compact with the majority consent of the compact commissioners, according to Richard Simpson, a long-time activist who has worked on anti-nuclear waste dump campaigns in New Mexico and Texas. Sen. Duncan also reminded the committee that the Legislature had authorized a private company to process and federal low-level radioactive waste in addition to the compact waste. Sen. Mike Jackson \(Rfact. “We formed the compact to avoid being a dumping ground for the federal government,” he told George Dials, President of WCS. Dials, who was testifying in front of the committee, gently corrected Sen. Jackson. In fact, in the lead-up to passage of HB 1567, WCS’s proxies had convinced lawmakers that compact waste alone wouldn’t generate enough revenue to keep WCS afloat, the loophole notwithstanding. Obligingly, legislators passed the bill without any meaningful caps on the amount of federal waste the company can accept. As a result, WCS potentially has full access to massive amounts of nuclear waste that the feds have been trying to unload since the Cold War. If Dials succeeds in landing a permit posal of “low-level” radioactive waste, Andrews could be the home for vast amounts of this waste forever. Luckily, TCEQ’s permit process is relatively stringent and a decision isn’t expected until December 2007. According to an official with TCEQ, WCS was recently issued its “third notice of administrative deficiency?’ If not corrected, WCS would have to start the licensing process all over again. TCEQ oversight of the compact and federal low-level radioactive waste was a concession won by Sen. Duncan in 2003. Perhaps that’s why he seemed a little miffed at the prospect of DSHSseen by many as a regulatory pushoverhandling the application for the Fernald waste. One of Sen. Duncan’s concerns is that the agency will approve WCS’s applications before the Legislature has time to intervene. The Legisla ture “has never considered whether the state of Texas should be a commercial importer of [Fernald radioactive materials];’ Duncan said at the hearing. The twist is that WCS may not even need to get its disposal permit granted to become the nation’s repository for aging Cold War waste. A “perfect storm” may make it one by default. On February 7, President Bush announced major budget cuts to the environmental cleanup budget of Fernald and two other similar facilities. According to the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a grassroots network that monitors nuclear issues, that kind of pressure forces the Department of Energy to find a permanent home for their radioactive waste soon. Currently, the other states that could feasibly accept Fernald-type and other low-level radioactive waste Nevada, Utah, and South Carolinaare signaling their intention to cut back or get out of the business. Nevada, which is still fighting to rid itself of the Yucca Mountain high-level waste site, has said that it will also fight any attempted low-level importation. In a letter to the DOE, Nevada attorney general helpfully mentioned WCS’s site as an alternative. Utah, which is home to WCS’s long-time rival Envirocare, has been moving away from radioactive dumping due to public opposition. Finally, South Carolina is eliminating the importation of the most radioactive of the low-level waste despite its generating an estimated $300 million in revenue for the state. That leaves WCS holding a virtual monopoly. Sen. Duncan argues that “once we get the [Fernald waste] here we’re going to have to dispose of it most likely,” even if WCS is only permitted for storage, not disposal. The final wild card in WCS’s and Texas’ radioactive future is the proposed uranium enrichment facility that lies, in the words of Sen. Duncan, “a nine-iron chip away from the [Texas] border” in New Mexico, next door to WCS’s facility. An initial agreement has already been inked to create a private uranium plant that will take dangerous depleted uranium coming from the proposed National Eunice, New Mexico, and try to make it a little more chemically stable. Sen. Duncan pressed Dials on the matter. “In addition to the waste that we authorized last session and the compact waste, potentially now there’s another source of waste that could be disposed of at your site. We could anticipate that in 2008, you might come back to ask for an amendment to allow you to take that waste:’ said Duncan. After some hesitation, Dials responded. “Yes,” he said. And why can’t the depleted uranium just stay in New Mexico? Simple: The state and its people don’t want it. WCS is promoting its various radioactive ventures as a popular jobs program for West Texas and a chance for Texas to seize the market in “an emerging industry?’ On hand at the hearing to drive his point home was Robert Zap, the mayor of the city of Andrews, and Russell Shannon, Vice President of the Andrews Industrial Foundation. They recounted the hard times their area fell on after the oil crash in the ’80s, and plugged the jobs that an expanded dump would create. What they didn’t mention was their county’s zeal for high-risk holes in the ground no one else seems to want: the national, high-level radioactive waste the failed supercolliding superconductor, and the hazardous and toxic materials dump WSC currently operates at its facility. Shannon told the committee of a sign outside Andrews that promotes the area’s values: God, Country, and Free Enterprise. “We hope the Legislature takes no action to impede our growth,” Dials said. WCS has spent a lot of time and money to get to this point. They’ve been helped along the way by lawmakers either too shortsighted or too indebted to pay attention to WCS’s expanding ambitions. HB 1567 allows for a total of 162 million cubic feet of federal lowlevel wastevirtually all of it. In addition, the Fernald waste is estimated to be 1.3 million cubic feet. The Sierra Club estimates that WCS could generate $100 billion in profits on the federal waste it’s already allowed to accept, to say nothing of the waste from Ohio. That’s a nice return on the millions continued on page 19 FEBRUARY 18, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11