Page 31


or Pryor, the idea of let ting a for-profit com pany handle, transport, and bury waste that will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years is crazy at best. State engineers and geologists largely agree. \(See “Good to Glow,” April ed the landfill will contaminate groundwater and pose unacceptable risks to residents. At least three state experts have quit the environmental commission in the past two years to protest what they see as politically motivated fast-tracking of Waste Control’s licenses. In the close-knit “free enterprise” zone around Andrews, anti-dump activism has been a hard sell. In March 1997, Pryor and a few others formed a group called AWARE to challenge Waste Control’s radioactive gambit. Soon, town elders and Waste Control began targeting the members. Of the approximately 15 people who typically attended AWARE meetings, half were usually Waste Control supporters, according to Richard Simpson, an anti-nuclear activist who moved to Andrews to organize. Pryor’s outspokenness offended some of her neighbors. People would say to her, “Why don’t you just get up and leave?” Pryor says she would reply, “I’ve lived here 50 years. How long have you lived here?” When it came time for the state to conduct hearings on the landfill, industrial foundation members used their sway to pack the meetings with Waste Control supporters. School board members called on teachers, hospital management called on their personnel, Roberts called on readers of the newspaper. At one hearing, the audience of several hundred was asked to stand if they opposed the license. Pryor was the only one in the room to stand. The handful of others in her group were too “scared,” says Melody Pryor, Peggy’s sister. “They physically got ill.” “Can you imagine how I felt? I was so shocked,” Pryor says. “After it was over, I was so upset and crying. I knew from that first day that it was already decided.” At another hearing, Pryor overheard Ron Hance, son of Congressman Hance, tell an AWARE member, now deceased, “You need to not tell lies on us.” The intimidation worked. During an AWARE meeting in 1997, Pryor left to get pizza, and when she got back the rest of the group had voted to disband. Rumors circulated that Peggy was a lesbian. Never married and childless, Pryor had let a hippie-ish, out-of-town activist who called herself Susan Solar stay at her place. Out-of-town allies felt the heat, too. “There was more intimidation in Andrews than I’ve ever eves the radioactive waste site is good for the community. seen in any place where a radioactive waste site was proposed,” recalls Diane D’Arrigo, the radioactive waste project director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an antinuke group. Carrots were offered, too. D’Arrigo and then-Sierra Club organizer Erin Rogers say that Waste Control principals offered them use of company geologists to help kill the Sierra Blanca project, a failed venture by the state to build and operate its own low-level radioactive waste facility. Folks in Andrews had a low opinion of the anti-nuclear crowd. “We had protesters come in here from everywhere, idiots, stinkin in worn-out tennis shoes,” remembers John Parrish, an agreeably acerbic independent oilman whose gimme cap and worn denim disguises the 3,000 barrels a month that have made him very rich. It’s not just the town’s elite who have unbridled enthusiasm. When Waste Control has an important hearing, scores of ordinary Andrewsans come to Austin dressed in matching T-shirts to show their support. Pryor blames Andrews’ history as a company town. “I was with my daddy when his boss told him who to vote for,” she recalls. The old ways persist. Even now, “The schoolteachers won’t speak out,” Pryor says. “If you speak out at the hospital, you’re ostracized.” Pryor’s dissidence has made her an enemy of the community. “Really, my name is mud,” she says. n industry highly susceptible to not-in-my-backyard protests could not ask for a better milieu than Andrews. Perhaps that’s why Waste Control isn’t the only nuclear enterprise flocking here. Louisiana Energy Services, a European-owned company, is building a $1.6 billion uranium enrichment facility a couple hundred yards from Waste Control’s property in Eunice, New Mexico. Attempts by Louisiana Energy to build similar plants in southwestern Louisiana and Tennessee were torched by Andrews Mayor Robert Zap bell MARCH 6, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17