1r Radioactive on the Right POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE A TASTE OF NUKE WASTE On June 7th, after a 1,300-mile journey through seven states, West Texas received its first shipment of radioactive waste from a retired Cold Warera uranium plant in Ohiothe first of 2,100 truckloads. Waste Control has long been a losing venture, but lately business has turned around, in part, because WCS has succeeded in throwing off many of the regulatory “burdens” imposed by the state. In 2003, WCS convinced lawmakers, buttered up by millions of dollars in lobbying and political contributions, to undo most of the regulations barring the importation of low-level radioactive waste into Texas. This past session, Sen. to mitigate some of the damage, but WCS won in the 11th hour, spending up to $495,000 on a stable of lobbyists to defeat the modest reform Duncan sponsored. Senate Bill 1667 would have transferred all regulatory authority over radioactive waste from the hapless and under-staffed Department of State Health Services to the somewhat tougher Texas Commission on Environmental imposed a 10 percent fee-8 percent to the state and 2 percent to Andrews Countyon certain federal radioactive waste, such as that from Ohio. Backed by Duncan’s political muscle, SB 1667 sailed out of the Senate on May 4, but met more friction on the House side. According to Cyrus Reed, a registered lobbyist for the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, the bill failed because the House leadership didn’t want it passed. When the Calendars committee set SB 1667 low on the list of business in the final days of the session, Duncan attached it as an amendment to an appropriations bill. The House leadership ruled from on high that it was not germane. SB 1667 never reached the House floor. Now, having dispatched with the legislature, WCS will turn its attention to the two state agenciesHealth Services and the TCEQwhich are currently deciding whether to issue permits to the company to permanently dispose of certain kinds of radioactive waste. Clearing these hurdles is imperative for WCS to achieve its goal of becoming “‘one-stop shopping’ for hazardous, low-level, and mixed low-level radioactive wastes,” as parent company Valhi’s quarterly statement to the Securities and Exchanges Commission puts it. Several mid-Western states are eyeing Texasi.e. WCSas a potential site for sending their commercial radioactive waste. A new uranium enrichment facility proposed right across the border from WCS in New Mexico is a likely customer as would be a rejuvenated U.S. commercial nuclear power industry. WCS finds itself well positioned in a growth industry. Besides the state agencies, little stands in the way of WCS’s plan. Unlike the people of Sierra Blanca, who fought off WCS when it tried to bring its radioactive business to their town, most citizens and city leaders in the county seat of Andrews welcome this budding homegrown radioactive empire. Whiplashed by the oil and gas boom and subsequent bust, the area is desperate for some form of economic rejuvenation. They see the storage and disposal of the nation’s radioactive byproducts as a jobs program, a chance to jumpstart the local economy. Beyond those understandable aspirations, taking endless amounts of radioactive waste is “about serving the state and nation,” says Andrews City Manager Glen Hackler. He points to the sign at the county line that reads, “Andrews Loves God, Country, and Free Enterprise,” as evidence of the area’s fealty to selflessness and service. But Rose Gardner, who lives in neighboring Lea County, New Mexico, thinks one reason Andrews residents are so cavalier about the potential dangers of housing nuclear waste is that they don’t live near the WCS site. She points out that the city of Andrews is actually 32 miles east of the waste facility while people in Eunice, New Mexico, can see the dump from their downtown. BUSH LEAGUE IN CRAWFORD Tricia Major never expected such fine small-town hospitality from the adopted home of President George W. Bush. Major and her companions from the Dallas Peace Center detoured to the pleasant town of Crawford on the way back from an Austin rally in May 2003. After supper at the Crawford Peace House, they learned of a possible demonstration at Bush’s ranch. Meanwhile, another group of Austin activists had begun to drive toward the ranch to participate, but were blocked by a law enforcement phalanx of about 50 city, county, and state officers. They were warned to leave, which the group scrambled to do within the allotted three minutes. Major had walked from the Peace House to meet the cars, thinking it was the place for the protest. There she encountered Police Chief Donnie Tidmore. He told her to leave the road; there was no demonstration. So she walked back to town. On the way, she encountered a TV reporter. As she gave the reporter an interview, Major was arrested. Three “legal observers” from the Austin groupAmanda Jack, Ken Zarifis, and Amara Malizewskisuffered the same treatment after they asked for the names of the arresting officers. Michael Machicek, also with the Dallas Peace Center, went down the road to investigate the chaotic situation. He hadn’t heard the Chief’s warnings. Tidmore informed him that he couldn’t protest there, and to get in his car and leave. Machicek then asked for a ride back to town. “I’ll give you a 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 24, 2005
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.