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Posts Tagged ‘andrews county’

WCS and the Frying Pan Ranch wildfire

As fires rage throughout Texas, we should remember that besides brush, farm land and homes, wildfires are a danger to many industrial sites.  According to today’s Texas Forest Service incident management situation report, a wildfire designated the Frying Pan Ranch fire in Andrews Co. has been contained, but not before scorching 80,907 acres.

While a remote and sparsely populated area, this corner of Texas is home to the controversial Waste Control Specialists’ (WCS) low-level radioactive waste disposal site.  Currently, two bills are moving through the Texas legislature (HB 2184 and SB 1504) which could open this site up to waste from the rest of the U.S. without significantly reducing the liability to Texans should there be a transportation accident or should there be a leak at the site.  I haven’t even seen anything about what issues are at stake in the event of an incident of wildfire.

Environmentalists have been calling on the legislature to improve HB 2184 and SB 1504 by slowing things down until:

  • We have a capacity study completed
  • We have analyzed the risk of a major leak
  • We have analyzed the fiscal liability to the State of Texas for a major leak
  • We have examined the transportation routes and the readiness of first responders and our ability to handle the costs of a transportation accident
If you are concerned about this radioactive waste dump, contact your representative and tell them to make sure we don’t move forward without making sure that Texas taxpayers don’t end up holding a big bag of radioactive liability.
Click here if you don’t know who your representative in the Texas House is.

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This month, the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission will hear feedback on a proposed rule allowing the importation of so-called low-level radioactive waste into Texas from across the nation. Under the proposed rules Waste Control Specialists (WCS) would be allowed to import additional radioactive waste from other areas of the country and potentially the world into Andrews County, Texas.

Click here to take action! Tell the Compact Commission you do not want Texas to become the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground!

An environmental analysis performed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) found potential problems with the site, including possible pathways to underground aquifers. Three TCEQ staff members have resigned or taken early retirement as a result of the decision to grant the license. While TCEQ did approve the license, the Sierra Club has appealed that decision to the State District Court.

Take Action Now!

Even though the license granted by the TCEQ has been appealed, and the site has yet to be constructed, the eight-member Compact Commission is rushing ahead with this proposed rule at the behest of WCS and nuclear power plants, who are both desperate to find a place to send their waste. The Compact Commission does not even have a staff to review proposed importation agreements. A coalition of groups is opposing the rush to approve this rule. The groups are urging the Commission to deny the ability to import any waste other than Texas-Vermont compact waste or to put much stricter rules in place on how waste might be imported on a case-by-case basis. The present license only has enough capacity for waste from Texas and the other compact state Vermont.

Join us now to send a message to the Compact Commission!

In addition to e-mailed comments, the public may also make comments at two public hearings in Austin, TX on April 5 and Andrews, TX on April 6.

Austin Hearing – April 5, 2010, 1:00 PM at the Texas State Capitol Extension Auditorium, E1.004

Andrews Hearing – April 6, 2010, 6:00 PM at Andrews High School Little Theater, 1401 NW Avenue K.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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SEED Coalition opposes any radioactive waste dumping in Texas, but at minimum seeks to prevent our state from receiving waste from more than just the two Compact States and becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump. With support from Public Citizen, Environment Texas and Nuclear Information and Resource Service and other groups, they will submit comments today to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission. The Proposed Import/Export Rule under consideration may open the door for Texas to becoming the nation’s nuclear dumping ground and we’re making recommendations to strengthen the rule and protect public health as safety .

State Rep. Lon Burnam (District 90, Ft. Worth) will ask a series of questions of the Compact Commissioners, and try to get answers as to why they are considering the weak and risky approach taken by the draft rule under consideration.

Some of SEED Coalition’s comments can be summarized as follows:

  • The site should be limited to radioactive waste from Texas and Vermont, and have volume and radioactivity caps that match the license for the facility.
  • Waste from Texas and Vermont would more than fill up the facility, and no Out of Compact Waste should be imported.
  • The proposed import/ export rule needs to be strengthened and deemed a Major Environmental rule, so that more careful analysis can be done.
  • Radionuclides must be carefully tracked and monitored. The public has a right to know what is shipped to the site and the level of radioactivity in curies.
  • The public should be informed as to health risks from various radionuclides and meetings held in accord with the Open Meetings Act

The Compact Commission meets today beginning at 9 AM in Austin, Texas in the State Capitol Auditorium, E1.004, 1400 North Congress.

Visit www.NukeFreeTexas.org to find SEED’s comments, Rep. Burnam’s questions, a NIRS factsheet and the memo by nuclear expert Dr. Arjun Makhijani.  Press release after the jump… (more…)

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Join us next Thursday, December 10th to help stop Texas from becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump!

Please Come:

Texas Compact Commission Stakeholder Meeting
Thursday, December 10th at 9am
Texas Capitol, Extension Auditorium, E1.004

You are invited to attend the press conference as well, held by the SEED Coalition, Public Citizen, and Sierra Club, on stopping Texas from becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump, the inadequacies of the west Texas dump site and the corruption surrounding the permitting process.

Thursday, Dec. 10th at 12:30 pm – Texas Capitol, Speaker’s Committee Room, 2W.6.

* Show your presence and that the public interest matters.

* Tell the Compact Commission not to allow import of radioactive waste into Texas from the rest of the country!

All of the State TCEQ scientists who worked on the permit for the West Texas dump site, owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), determined the site to be inadequate because of the possible radioactive contamination of our aquifers and groundwater. Corruption and politics led to the permitting of the site anyways, ignoring the entire TCEQ technical team’s recommendation against issuing the permit. 3 TCEQ employees quit over the decision.

Now the Compact Commission is putting rules in place, to let nuclear power waste from across the country into Texas, making this site the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground. The Texas Compact Commission, appointed by Governor Perry, and responsible for managing so-called “low-level” radioactive waste generated within its boundaries, is developing rules for importation of radioactive waste from outside the compact (TX and Vermont), AGAINST the original intent of the law, which was for only the 3 states of the compact to be able to dump there.

The Commission is taking comments from stakeholders on the development of the import rule. We want to let them know that the generators of nuclear waste and the dump company that is profiting from taking the waste are not the only stakeholders in this process. Please come help make the voices of the public, Texas taxpayers, and water drinkers heard LOUD and CLEAR.

Learn more at:

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Environmental Groups See Clean Energy Groundwork Laid for the Future

(Austin) Senate and House members from both political parties showed unprecedented support for developing more renewable energy and energy efficiency in Texas by filing a large number of clean power, green jobs bills in the 81st Texas State Legislature. A number of major bills passed either the House or the Senate. Ultimately, political disagreements over other issues and over the size and extent of the programs delayed and killed most of these excellent legislative initiatives.

Environmental groups Sierra Club, SEED, Public Citizen, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environment Texas applaud the passage of some clean energy, green jobs legislation and view the Legislature as having laid ample groundwork for the future.

“The fact that both the House and the Senate passed major legislation on energy efficiency and renewable power with bipartisan agreement shows that Texas leaders are willing and able to develop clean power and green jobs for our state,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Nevertheless, leaders were distracted by undue influence from industry interests and by the Voter ID debate which hampered passage of clean energy bills and other more vital areas of legislation.”

“Texas is moving more slowly than a melting glacier toward developing global warming policy. Rather than implementing already available energy efficiency and distributed energy solutions, Texas’ response to global warming is to develop futuristic industrial-sized solutions. As a result the state has legislation pending that may develop standards for large scale carbon sequestration projects and provide incentives to get companies to develop the technologies,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “On the positive side, the state has passed a study to develop a series of ‘no regrets’ solutions to global warming that the State can achieve at no cost. Also, the Texas House, especially the House Committee on Environmental Regulation, should be applauded for their more open leadership style this session which lead to far more reasoned and less ideological bills being developed in the committee.”

Clean Power, Green Energy Bills that passed both bodies and will go to the Governor (as this release goes to press):

  • Green fleets legislation to promote low emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles for fleets of major State Agencies (HB 432);
  • Legislation allowing cities to create financial districts to loan money for renewable power and energy efficiency (HB 1937).
  • Legislation setting a ‘no regrets’ strategy for greenhouse gas reduction in the State; a study of the state’s energy use to find ways to reduce our emissions and save money at the same time (SB 184)
  • A coordinated green jobs strategy including funds allocated for child care programs, vocational training initiatives, energy efficiency measures, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and/or any other recovery funds (passed as a Rider to Article 12).
  • Green fee bill passed allowing governing board of public colleges and universities to institute an environmental service fee once approved by student body election.

“This has been a disappointing session,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “However, with the passage of HB 1937, we can start the ball rolling on developing Texas’ solar future, working with local communities one at a time to start financing solar and energy efficiency projects.”

Groundwork Laid for Next Session

The major Clean Power, Green Jobs bills that passed the House or Senate but did not ultimately make it to the Governor’s Desk include:

  • Raising the state’s minimum residential and commercial building codes from 2001 to 2009 standards (passed Senate as SB 16 and HB 2783 in House);
  • Raising the utility efficiency goal (SB 546 passed both houses but no agreement was reached between Senator Fraser and Representative Anchia on the size of the goals)
  • Adopting appliance efficiency standards for a variety of products, including pool pumps (passed Senate as SB 16)
  • Creating a 1,500 MW Emerging Technology Renewable Standard (SB 541 – passed the Senate)
  • Creating a $500 million solar incentive program (SB 545 – passed the Senate).
  • Creating a Policy requiring utilities and retail electric providers to pay consumers fair buyback rates for excess electricity generation from renewable energy (HB 1243 – passed House and Senate, but was killed in the House through concerns over germaneness and Senate amendments.);
  • High performance energy efficiency building standards for state buildings, including universities and public schools (HB 431). The Senate may pass the conference committee report today, on Sine Die.

Factors which prevented bills with bipartisan support from making it across the finish line:

  • The issue of Voter ID, which put many major efficiency and renewable bills too far down the calendar for consideration in the House;
  • A disagreement over the germaneness and concern over the possible costs to low-income residents of adding the solar incentive bill (SB 545) to the surplus electricity bill (HB 1234), which led Representative Turner to ultimately kill consideration of the bill on the House floor;
  • The election of a new Speaker and the naming of new Committee Chairman understandable led to some delays in getting the committees up and running to begin to consider bills;
  • Disagreement between House and Senate on size and scope of goals set by solar and energy efficiency bills (SB 545 & 546);
  • Disagreement over the potential costs and benefits of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (SB 541);
  • Opposition from the Texas Manufacturers Association, the Governor and many utilities against the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“We were happy to find some new allies this session including certain members of the legislature and some electric utilities that said they supported renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation,” said Jim Marston, Director of Texas Regional Office of Environmental Defense Fund. “Sadly, some of the electric companies talked a good game, but their support evaporated when opposed by their affiliated retail electric providers or others in the industry. In the end, the Association of Electric Companies of Texas reverted to representing the interests of the regressive elements of their membership harming the ability of Texas to participate successfully in the new energy economy.”

“Moreover, the Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM) while acknowledging that an expanded renewable portfolio standard was the way to bring clean technology jobs to Texas, distributed false cost information about solar legislation that was repudiated by the PUC and others. The bottom line, TAM fought legislation that would have brought new manufacturing jobs to Texas,” said Marston.

Nuclear Bills Blocked

Environmental groups blocked bad bills that would have removed citizen rights to contest permits and would have promoted nuclear power in the State which many view as a financial drain from investment in truly clean energy.

“Nuclear power is expensive, consumes vast quantities of water, comes with serious security and health risks and creates radioactive waste, for which there is no good storage solution. We were happy to block two bad bills this session that were designed to benefit proposed nuclear reactors in Texas,” said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition.

The nuclear bills that were blocked:

  • Fast tracked water permits for nuclear power plants and cut out contested case hearings (HB 2721 was left pending in House Environmental Regulation Committee)
  • Subsidies for proposed nuclear power plants in the form of tax rebates (HB 4525 passed the House and was blocked in the Senate.)

“Representative Flynn’s bill would have fast-tracked water permits for nuclear plants, an outrageous attempt in a time of statewide drought,” said Hadden. “It would also have denied citizens an opportunity to contest issuance of the permits through hearings, an assault on democratic process. The other bad bill that we defeated would have given massive subsidies to nuclear power in the form of tax rebates.”

Miscellany

  • A good bill to address the Compact Loophole for the Andrews County Low-Level Radioactive Waste Dump bill, HB 3423 Lon Burnam did not get out of Committee.
  • Environmental groups blocked a bad provision that would have fast tracked water permits for “clean coal” plants in the final version of HB 469 and added cleaner emissions standards for those plants.
  • HB 821 passed, requiring television manufacturers that sell televisions in Texas to make free and convenient recycling available. Texas Campaign for the Environment successfully advocated for this bill.
  • Sen. Ellis used a threatened filibuster last night to kill HB 3827 which would have allowed oil companies to evade liability for MTBE water contamination;
  • SB 2169 Sets up an interagency working group, co-chaired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Transportation with other agencies to discuss smart growth and make recommendations for developing the state in a sustainable way.
  • An amendment to HB 300 creates a certification program for environmental coordinators in Texas Department of Transportation district offices. This bill is still in conference committee as this release goes to press.

“As it concludes, environmentalists can view this legislative session with some hopefulness – the Legislature is definitely involved and interested in clean energy and green jobs and did move these issues forward. But there is also some sadness – an opportunity to move significantly forward on clean energy was lost,” Cyrus Reed added. “Jobs that could have been created, and new sources of clean energy that could have been advanced in Texas were delayed this Session.”

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Rep. Lon Burnam’s bill, HB 3423, will be heard on Wednesday, April 1st, in the House Committee on Environmental Regulation hearing at 10:30 AM or upon adjournment, in E1.014. If you are able to come, we’re trying to get as many people as possible to register their support of this bill (by filling out a witness affirmation form). That’s right, officially registering your opinion on a bill is as simple as filling out a card.  The bill closes the Compact Loophole, and requires other states who want to send radioactive waste here to get legislative approval first.

The Compact Agreement was originally between Texas, Maine and Vermont.  Maine pulled out of the Compact, and now Texas and Vermont are able to send their radioactive so-called “low-level” waste to be stored at the Andrews County dump in West Texas. A loophole in the Compact Agreement allows any state to send radioactive waste to Texas. We don’t need to be the nation’s nuclear dump!

The license for that dump was recently issued by the TCEQ, and the agency wrongly denied the opportunity for a contested case hearing (read: locals were not allowed to voice their opposition in any formal environment). Three long-term scientists at TCEQ recommended denying the permit — and actually left their jobs for ethical reasons once the permit was approved. The science is NOT solid for the Andrews County radioactive waste dump – and there are concerns that radionuclides could come in contact with underground water. It is possible that contamination could spread to the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies eight states, including the nation’s wheat growing region.

96% of the radioactive waste slated  for the site would be from nuclear reactors — everything except the fuel rods. Radionuclides in the waste are dangerous today and remain dangerous for thousands of years. A recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling reclassified depleted uranium from reprocessing, putting it into a less hazardous (Class A) category. Now up to 1.4 million tons of depleted uranium could go to the West Texas site and/or Clive, Utah sites.

If you can’t make it in person, calls to the Environmental Regulation committee in support of Burnam’s bill are needed! If you are a constituent, please let them know that.

Rep. Byron Cook (Chair) – 512-463-0646, [email protected]
Rep. Warren Chisum (Vice-Chair) – 512-463-0736, [email protected]
Rep. Lon Burnam – 512-463-0740, (it’s his bill, give him a call to say thanks.)
Rep. Jim Dunnam – 512-463-0508, [email protected]
Rep. Jessica Farrar – 512-463-0620, Jessica.Farr[email protected]
Rep. Kelly Hancock – 512-463-0599, [email protected]
Rep. Ken Legler – 512-463-0460, [email protected]
Rep Marc Veasey – 512-463-0716, [email protected]
Rep. Randy Weber – 512-463-0707, [email protected]

For further background on the Andrews County dump, check out Forrest Wilder’s article from the last Texas Observer, Waste Texas: Why Andrews County is so eager to get dumped on. Or if you’re more the auditory type, listen to the podcast.

Check out the press release after the jump.

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radiationsignI have been remiss in my duties as Blog Lady because I haven’t told you anything about the slated Andrews County nuclear waste dump.  Oh, you hadn’t heard?  TCEQ approved a “low-level” radioactive dump out in the lower panhandle.  There wasn’t a contested case hearing — and citizens of Eunice, New Mexico, the closest town to the dump, haven’t been able to officially voice their opposition because they don’t have standing under state law.  The dump is also only licensed for 15 years, after which all that toxic waste will be the responsibility of the state.  Aaaaand the dump will be accepting waste, not just from Texas, but from all over the United States.

Check out the press release below for more information.  If you happen to live near Odessa, be sure to swing by Big Daddy’s Grill and Bar at 6 PM —  D’Arrigo will be speaking there this evening.  She will be joined by Dr. Terry Burns, with the Permian Basin Sierra Club, who will discuss health concerns, Rose Gardner – a concerned citizen from Eunice, New Mexico, the city nearest the radioactive waste dump, and SEED Coalition Director, Karen Hadden.

For a truly beautiful article on this issue, be sure to read Forrest Wilder’s Waste Texas: Why Andrews County is so eager to get dumped on in the newest Texas Observer.  That boy can really write.

Vince Leibowitz over at Capitol Annex also has a really good post on the legislative history of the dump.

Radioactive Risks for West Texas

Odessa, Texas – Texas environmental organizations hosted speaker Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) at a press conference today. She discussed the risks posed to Texans living near the so-called “low-level” radioactive waste dump in Andrews County.

“Low-level radioactive waste could remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands to over a million years,” said D’Arrigo. “Texas’ waste dump in Andrews County calls for a private company to manage a low-level dump, but the company would only be licensed to operate it for 15 years. They could then renew their license or decide to close the dump and walk away, leaving a toxic mess to the state of Texas. This could also happen if the company just folds up and vanishes into the night.” (more…)

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