Texas Legislators stall efforts to expand West Texas nuke dump

Greg Harman

[email protected]

A public hearing near the site of what could become a national (if not international) nuclear waste dump in West Texas has been canceled by the still-unfunded Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission. The cancellation came after the agency was overwhelmed with comments on a proposal to start laying out the terms to open the current Texas-Vermont disposal agreement to waste generators beyond the two states.

Those comments ― mostly against the agency's plans ― have included an urging to delay action from consultants to the Vermont Legislature. Texas has agreed to accept the New England state's low-level waste from its lone (leaking) nuclear plant, but any agreements outside that arrangement must be made on a case-by-case basis and pass a majority vote of the TLLRWCC Comissioners.

Yesterday, 15 Texas lawmakers delivered a scolding rebuke to the agency, stating that the agency had failed to consider the economic impact on the state should the privately operated Waste Control Specialists site leak ― leaving the liability (and cost) of clean-up to the state. The legislators also voiced concern about transporting wastes that remain “lethal for tens of thousands of years” by rail and truck across the state.

In summarizing their viewpoint, the lawmakers, which include San Antonio Representative Mike Villarreal, state:

It bears reminding that the purpose of the Compact is "to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens and the environment of the party states" (Article 1, Section 403.006, Texas Health and Safety Code). Given that import threatens the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Texans, as well as the fiscal implications of increased liability resulting from import, we believe that the potential costs of import to the state far outweigh the benefits, particularly since those benefits largely accrue to a private, profit motivated site operator (Waste Control Specialists).

For these reasons, we ask you not to adopt the proposed import rule, at least until the Legislature has had the opportunity to consider these issues of such lasting significance for Texans for generations to come.

In announcing the meeting cancellation the same day, TLLRWCC Director Margaret Henderson wrote:

The Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission has received in excess of 2000 comments on the proposed Export/Import rule. In order to properly consider and respond to each comment that has been submitted, as well as to ensure absolute compliance with the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the Compact Commission is postponing the May 11, 2010 meeting scheduled in Andrews, Texas. The Commission expresses regret for any inconvenience to interested parties and will announce the new meeting date as soon as possible.

The meeting has been canceled in the Texas Register and a notice has been placed on the Commission website.

Here' is the letter from Texas Reps: