Lone Star Chapter

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Contacts:

Ken Kramer 512-476-6962 or 626-4204
Cyrus Reed 512-740-4086
Donna Hoffman 512-477-1729 or 299-5776
Donna.Hoffman@sierraclub.org

 

 

The Sierra Club and other Citizens’ Groups Endorse Gallego Resolution on Radioactive Waste --

Legislature Urged: Pause and Think before Opening Texas’ Door to Nation’s Radioactive Waste

The Energy Resources Committee of the Texas House of Representatives will hear testimony at a hearing open to the public at 8:00 am on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 in the Texas Capitol Extension, room E1.014 regarding a bill, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 85 introduced by Representative Pete P. Gallego (D-Alpine).

HCR 85 requests the formation of a joint interim committee to study the risks of importing of radioactive waste into Texas.

“We need some answers to important questions before this potentially dangerous and destructive process moves forward,” said Rep. Gallego. “We need to investigate and identify all the liabilities, examine whether our state highway system is equipped to handle thousands of tons of radioactive waste, and determine if we have the regulatory framework in place to ensure the safety of Texans.”

The history of U.S. Federal and Texas legislation was bookmarked in the mid-Eighties by the Compact concept wherein states partnered with other states to regulate and limit the amount of waste any one state would receive. Texas originally partnered in a Compact with Vermont and Maine to try to achieve that limitation.

However, two pieces of the law - a loophole in the compact which opened up Texas to non-Compact states’ waste and the passage in 2003 of House Bill 1567, which privatized radioactive waste disposal in Texas, in effect allow facilities from all over the nation to send their radioactive wastes to Texas.1

Under current law, sources across the United States – including nuclear power plants, nuclear arms production facilities, surface and in situ uranium mines could apply to send radioactive waste mixed with other toxic chemicals for permanent storage in Texas. One private company, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) has lobbied expensively and prepared the lethal groundwork to bring the wastes to our state, to a site in Andrews County near the Texas border with New Mexico.

Texas splits jurisdiction over radioactive waste between several state agencies.2    Currently, the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) licenses storage and disposal of uranium mill tailing waste. This includes the highly controversial “Fernald” waste from Ohio which WCS plans to import to Texas in 3,500 trucks on Texas Highways.

Sierra Club has requested a contested case hearing on the decision by TDSHS to grant WCS a license amendment to import the Fernald waste.

“The WCS facility in Andrews County was not engineered to be a permanent disposal site for this type of waste,” said Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.“The safeguards are not in place to protect the public from the many risks associated with the type and magnitude of radioactive waste. Moreover, Texans have no guarantee that WCS will remain in business long after getting its profit from the site, leaving our state with an abandoned radioactive waste site.”

HCR 85 if passed will be a positive intervention in this history that will give lawmakers time to investigate further the scale of the potential disaster our state could have on our hands as the dumping grounds for our nations’ most persistently toxic waste.

Rep. Gallego wants the joint committee to spend the interim taking public testimony and then offer recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for action before the next regular session.

“West Texas should not be the national dumping ground for other state’s nuclear waste,” said Gallego. “The resolution which will be heard in committee next week creates a process where we can investigate all aspects of radioactive waste importation to ensure the safety of our citizens.”

1 Decisions at the federal level have also increased the waste potentially eligible for import to Texas, including depleted uranium waste that would be generated by a uranium enrichment plant planned for Lea County, New Mexico, just across the border from the Waste Control Specialists disposal site in Texas.

2 Another State agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. WCS has applied to TCEQ to build two sites – one for federal “low-level” radioactive waste, and one for compact state “low-level” waste.

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