Texas Set to Become National Radioactive Waste Dump (Again)

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+++ EARTH DAY CALL TO ACTION +++ 

A terrible radioactive waste bill (CSSB 791) is being voted on by the full Senate TODAY, Monday April 22nd, 2013.

Call your State Senators (not Cornyn or Cruz) TODAY and say “NO to CSSB 791!”

— WHAT TO SAY —

Hi. My name is ____ and I’m calling from ___(your City)___ to strongly urge Senator ___(Senator’s Name)___ to vote no on CSSB 791 – the radioactive waste bill.

This bill transforms the initial waste license granted by the TCEQ in 2009, and would allow for more dangerous “hot waste” to come to Texas. Something I strongly don’t support.

Thanks so much for your time.

<><> NUMBERS TO CALL <><>

Brian Birdwell  512-463-0122                    Jane Nelson  512-463-0112
Donna Campbell  512-463-0125               Robert Nichols   512-463-0103
John J. Carona  512-463-0116                   Dan Patrick   512-463-0107
Wendy R. Davis  512-463-0110                 Ken Paxton   512-463-0108
Bob Deuell  512-463-0102                          José Rodríguez  512-463-0129
Robert Duncan  512-63-0128                    Charles Schwertner  512-463-0105
Rodney Ellis  512-463-0113                       Kel Seliger   512-463-0131
Kevin P. Eltife  512-463-0101                   Larry Taylor   512-463-0111
Craig Estes  512-463-0130                         Carlos I. Uresti  512-463-0119
Troy Fraser  512-463-0124                        Leticia Van de Putte   512-463-0126
Sylvia R. Garcia  512-463-0106                Kirk Watson  512-463-0114
Kelly G. Hancock  512-463-0109             Royce West  512-463-0123
Glenn Hegar   512-463-0118                      John Whitmire  512-463-0115
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa  512-463-0120   Tommy Williams  512-463-0104
Joan Huffman  512-463-0117                    Judith Zaffirini  512-463-0121
Eddie Lucio  512-463-0127

CSSB 791: WCS to Become the National Site for B & C Waste

While the Public is Shut Out of the Process

VOTE NO ON SENATE FLOOR 

Testimony of Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter

In 2003, legislative leaders were convinced that the best course forward was to allow a private company to apply for and run a waste site for “Compact” waste from Texas, Vermont and Maine related to low-level radioactive waste. As part of that bill, the private company was also allowed to take federal LLRW largely from old Department of Energy sties. The rationale was that the Compact waste would not allow enough profit and the federal waste was needed.

In 2011, WCS came back to the legislature and said the Compact and Federal waste was not enough, and that some level of “imports” were needed. The Legislature gave them some, but not all of the imports from other states, limiting the total to 30% of the volume and 50,000 curies of waste per year.

Now, they have come back, and said again, it’s not enough. “What we really need is all of the Class B and C waste from the nation, and it’s ok with us if you send the Class A waste from Texas generators to other states.” (We’re paraphrasing here)  In fact, the required Capacity Study recently released by TCEQ found that Texas generators only needed to use relatively few curies allowed in the license, but could use all of the volume allowed in the license. So the solution proposed in this bill is to send Class A waste – which takes most of the volume — OUT OF TEXAS, and IMPORT HOT WASTE from other states. In other words, the original purpose of the waste site – to take care of Texas waste – is being transformed into a new purpose – making money for WCS.

It is worth noting that in the environmental assessment that was prepared in conjunction with staff’s review of WCS’s license application, it was assumed that most of the waste volume that would be deposited at the WCS facility would be Class A waste. Now it is apparent that far more Class B and Class C waste will be deposited in the facility, particularly if this bill becomes law, and one wonders whether the environmental assessment adequately considered these conditions.

CSSB 791 makes it more likely that MORE waste – and in particular “hotter” Class B and C waste – will come to Texas. While there remains an overall limit of curies in the license itself  of 3.89 million, CSSB 791 increases the total amount of curies to some 50% of the license -–300,000 curies per year through 2019. Assuming 300,000 curies per year, through 2019, plus the original 200,000 curies authorized in the first year of operations, half of the curies in the site would be filled up with out of compact waste. Thus, a site authorized by the legislature to assure that we wouldn’t become the nation’s dumping ground for hotter LLRW has now become authorized to become the nation’s dumping ground.

These changes fundamentally transform the initial license granted by TCEQ in 2009. CSSB 791 gives the Executive Director all of the ability to amend the license to incorporate this hotter waste without even considering it a major amendment. This strips citizens of their rights to even comment or contest these changes.

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Photo copied from Texas Tribune 2011 story.

The bill is also fundamentally aimed at a court case of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is a national organization and in 2009 we asked for a contested case hearing on the WCS draft license based upon concerns from our members in New Mexico and Texas. The site is literally on the New Mexico border. In 2012, we won a case in state District Court which would have remanded the license and granted us the contested case hearing, largely based on the issues raised by our New Mexico members living in Eunice, New Mexico. That decision was appealed to the State District Court of Appeals, where we await a hearing.

In Section One, the bill makes any future contested case hearing only applicable to TEXAS residents.  While Sierra Club also has several members who are Texas residents and who are likely impacted by the facility, these members do not live and conduct their business as close to the facility as the New Mexico members. That is because the facility is right on the border with New Mexico. To put a facility on the border with another state and then refuse to allow that state’s residents to participate in the permitting process—a permitting process that could result in the authorization of a radioactive waste disposal facility that will house radioactive waste for hundreds of years—not only reflects a lack of respect for the neighboring state, but it invites possible litigation, for failing to recognize the rights and concerns of residents who are virtually neighbors to this radioactive waste site. Remember when the state wanted to build a waste site in Sierra Blanca, residents of Mexico actually participated in the contested case hearing.

In Section Six, CSSB 791 says that if the license issued by the TCEQ “ is later reversed or remanded to the commission by order of a court on procedural error,”  the site can continue to operate under a compliance agreement with the agency. In other words, even if a court of law orders that the site cease operations while a hearing is held, TCEQ can allow the site to continue to operate.  A special legislative fix for a licensee.  Sierra Club, WCS, and TCEQ are already in the midst of the appellate process. WCS’s operations have not been interrupted during this legal process. It makes no sense for the Legislature to inject itself into ongoing litigation. Instead, the Legislature should allow the judicial process to play out, as it has been, applying the legal rules and principles that are already in place, rather than attempting to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Similarly, Section Nine allows the Executive Director to make adjustments to license conditions based on performance objectives that require no right to public input or contested case hearings. Thus, the license issued in 2009 could fundamentally change with no recourse for the public to affect the changes to the license authorized by this act.

Sierra Club is not in support of CSSB 791 because of provisions increasing the amount of non-party waste coming into Texas, and the provisions that would impact our court case and future actions related to the site. We do not object to provisions in the bill related to the perpetual care account and other provisions related to emergency response.

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