Harold Simmons One Step Closer to Getting What He Wants: Everyone's Nuclear Waste

At the end of last year we spent quite a bit of time following Nuke Free Texas' efforts to stop  Governor Rick Perry's appointees on the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission from giving Waste Control Specialists the thumbs-up to bury nuclear waste out in West Texas that didn't belong to either Texas or Vermont. Because, see, that was the original deal -- Vermont and Texas and only Vermont and Texas. Till, that is, Dallas billionaire and Swift Boat captain Harold Simmons, owner of Waste Control Specialists, decided he'd make it come-one-come-all and began spreading the wealth, giving $500,000 to Perry last year alone, while hoping for a big ol' return on that investment.

He's been trying to get the OK for years, and yesterday, Simmons got a little closer to his goal: The House OK'd state Rep. Tryon Lewis' bill that paves the way for allowing WCS to take in all the nuke waste it can get its hands on, without being subjected to regulatory rates set by the state. Some pols tried to amend the bill -- hoping to get a bigger financial cut for the state, which will ultimately be on the hook should something go bad out in Andrews County, and wanting to study the environmental impact, especially as that nuke waste is trucked through Texas -- but it was a no-go. Said Fort Worth's Lon Burnham, the result is "the biggest pork-barrel project in history."

Last night, a statement from Cyrus Reed, the conservation director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, landed in the Unfair Park in-box. His takeaway: The bill "will effectively turn Texas into the nation's radioactive waste disposal site" and "at the end of the day, the profits of one company -- Waste Control Specialists -- won out over common sense and the health and safety of Texans." The full release follows. Jump, and never mind those leaking yellow barrels.

Statement of Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, on Initial House Passage of the Radioactive Waste Importation Bill (SB 1504)

"Today the Texas House gave initial approval to Senate Bill 1504, which would fundamentally change our state's obligations to dispose of low-level radioactive waste from the Texas Compact -- Texas and Vermont -- by opening up the site in Andrews County to imports from other states. This legislation, if finally passed, will effectively turn Texas into the nation's radioactive waste disposal site. While the bill's authors, Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Trey Lewis, added several good provisions, the bill will help one company earn record profits from radioactive waste disposal while Texas taxpayers bear the liability and future clean-up of the site. The good provisions added to the originally filed bill include a review of financial assurance, a study of the capacity of the site to take wastes from more states than just Texas and Vermont, and a change advocated by Sierra Club to require the operator to obtain a license amendment before waste imports may begin.

"Despite other good amendments proposed on the House floor today - an amendment by Rep. Harvey Hildebran on a review of the surcharge on out-of-compact wastes and a cap on profits, an amendment by Rep. Pete Gallego to study the transportation impacts of the imported waste, and an amendment by Rep. Jose Menendez to require the capacity study before any waste imports could occur - the author and a majority of House members refused to improve the bill with those proposed changes. At the end of the day, the profits of one company - Waste Control Specialists - won out over common sense and the health and safety of Texans."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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