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April 1 , 2010: In This Issue. . .

  • Hearings Set for Proposal to Allow Texas to Become Nation’s Dumping Ground

    The Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission has announced public hearings on April 5 in Austin and April 6 in Andrews to take comments on a proposed rule that would allow the importation of radioactive waste from around the nation to be dumped in the Waste Control Specialists disposal site in Andrews County. The Sierra Club is opposing adoption of the rule and urging Texans to let their voices be heard in opposition to making Texas the nation’s dumping ground for nuclear wastes.

    The Compact Commission, composed of six commissioners from Texas and two from Vermont, is charged with overseeing operations of the Texas-Vermont Compact for the disposal and management of “low-level” radioactive waste. The Compact was developed in the early 1990s (initially with Maine as well) in order to limit disposal of these low-level wastes to only the waste generated within the Compact states.

    And what you may ask are “low-level” radioactive wastes? Why, any radioactive wastes that are not considered “high-level,” of course.

    Last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a license to Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to dispose up to 2.3 million cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste from the Texas-Vermont Compact states. Under the new proposed rule, an importer could win approval from the Compact Commission to bring additional wastes into the Texas disposal site from generators in states that are not part of the compact.

    The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has appealed the issuance of the WCS license to State District Court in Travis County and has opposed approval of the published rule. Instead, the Sierra Club argues, the Compact Commission should only consider rules governing waste importation if and when a disposal site becomes operational.

    Consider these facts:
    • The Compact Commission still does not have a staff to even review proposals for importation;
    • There is currently an estimated 6 million cubic feet of waste that will be generated over the coming decades in Texas and Vermont alone, more than the capacity of the Texas facility as licensed; and
    • Texas taxpayers would ultimately be liable for these wastes from other states –or even international shipments – once here.

    The Sierra Club and others are suggesting that if the Commission does approve importations of radioactive waste on a case-by-case basis, at the least they should:
    • Establish overall curie and volume limits, as well as on each importation agreement;
    • Require a license amendment process at TCEQ since the license is based only on Texas and Vermont waste;
    • Specifically ban foreign wastes;
    • Require that any proposed importation of waste into the WCS waste “storage” (“temporary storage” as contrasted to “disposal”) facility also be subject to Compact Commission approval.

    The full set of Sierra Club comments on the rule proposal may be found at:
    http://www.texas.sierraclub.org/Conservation/energy/SCwastecomment20100316.pdf.

    The public hearing in Austin will be held Monday, April 5 at 1:00 PM at the Texas State Capitol in Extension Auditorium, E1.004, while the Andrews public meeting will be held April 6 at 6 PM in the Little Theater at the Andrews High School, 1401 NW Avenue K.

    For more information about the meetings and rule, visit http://www.tllrwdcc.org/rule.html.

The State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org ...Header photo by Rob Zabroky
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