A Radioactive Texas?

OK — here is the vision brought to you by Waste Control Specialists, the private company trying to locate a radioactive waste disposal facility in Andrews Texas, just next to the border with New Mexico: a one-stop shop for virtually all of the radioactive waste in the country, with the facility opening in November of 2011. Open for business for radioactive waste from anywhere. And it is a vision that is becoming much closer to reality following the 5-2 vote yesterday by the Texas Low Level Waste Disposal Compact Commission to approve rules that would allow, on a case-by-case basis, Texas to import radioactive waste from anywhere in the country to be buried in the West Texas ground, even if that generator or place had no legal agreement with Texas, as does the State of Vermont under the Texas Compact.

Not surprisingly, there are multiple viewpoints on the issue. Sierra Club is opposed to the present license even for the Texas and Vermont waste because there are significant problems with the proposed location and proposed license. In fact, we have appealed the license to State District Court and are awaiting a trial. But we are particularly opposed — as are a couple of the Texas Compact Commission Commissioners, several key legislators like Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Lon Burnam and Rafael Anchia, and even Dennis Bonnen, to the notion that it was the right time to open up the “compact” with Vermont to waste from other states, even before the Compact Commission has an operating budget to hire staff, the Legislature has met to consider what it thinks about opening up the compact, and before the site itself has been given the green light to even begin major construction.

Here is a statement we put out this week on it.

“The decision by the Commission to approve rules that would allow a private company — Waste Control Specialists — to import dangerous radioactive wastes into a site that was by its license only designed for Texas and Vermont waste is irresponsible and alarming,” noted Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club Conservation Director Cyrus Reed.

“Thousands of members of the public as well as several members of the  Texas Legislature asked the Commission to either vote ‘no’ on the rules or at least delay voting on the proposed rules until the Legislature had met, the site had actually been constructed, opened, proved to be safe and the Commission had an actual budget with which to operate. Instead, the Commission has rushed into a grave decision based upon false information from the license holder that waste from other states was needed to make the site economical. Fortunately, the Commission’s vote is likely to be challenged in court because not all comments on the rules were even considered.  Sierra Club awaits a decision by a State District Court that would allow us to participate in a hearing to determine the safety of the site,” said Reed.

Keep in mind that even before the vote there was a legal attempt by Public Citizen to prevent the vote based on some poor notice and failure to get the Commission’s email right to receive comment. Unfortunately, the Federal Judge ruled he didn’t have the jurisdiction to act but noted folks like Public Citizen were welcome to question the process of the vote after the vote was taken. So stay tuned.

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