Posts Tagged ‘Harold Simmons’

By Michael Tahmoressi, St. Edwards student and Public Citizen intern

Texas can be characterized as a pay to play environment.  Politicians bend to their districts business interests and gubernatorial appointees seem to be selected based on the amounts they contribute to the governor.

Contributions Equal Access and Appointments

Rick Perry has taken this to a new extreme with the deal he appears to have struck with Harold Simmons, a billionaire chemical industry mogul whose latest project is a radioactive waste repository in Andrews county Texas. Simmons single handedly pushed his project forward, boasting about it in a rare interview in 2006.  Click here to read D Magazine’s article “Harold Simmons is Dallas’ Most Evil Genius.

State engineers and geologists strongly objected to licensing the dump, expressing concern that radioactive material could contaminate groundwater in the region.  Three staff scientists at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality resigned rather than sign off on the licenses. Nevertheless, Rick Perry spearheaded the approval of the waste dump, operated by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and the TCEQ executive director, Glenn Shankle, approved the application, just a few months before he went to work as a lobbyist for WCS.  Click here to read Public Citizen’s report The Repository and the Risk.

The next step of the plan was to open the facility up to allow other states to dump their waste in the site.  That decision lay in the hands of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC), comprised of six Texas commissioners appointed by Perry.  Two additional commissioners appointed by Vermont fill out the Compact Commission.  In 2010, eleven days after Governor Perry was re-elected, the Compact Commission voted 5-2 to approve rules that would make Texas the radioactive waste disposal site for the country.

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission flagged this potentially huge liability problem in its report on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

“Texas, and not the Compact Commission nor the disposal facility licensee, holds liability for compact waste brought into the state. Low-level radioactive waste can be radioactive for a long time, and potential future contamination could not only have a severe impact to the environment and human health, but to the State, which bears the ultimate financial responsibility for compact waste disposal facility site.”

A Texas observer article goes on to explain that the state would not only be forced to take care of any potential contamination problems but also the closure of the waste dump. This is clearly illustrates the biggest problem in our state the power does not lie in the hands of the people but in the business sector. Click here to read the article from the Texas Observer.

Double Dipping: An Acceptable Practice?

The case of State Represenative Joe Driver, (R-Garland) is another example.  Driver, who was convicted of felony abuse of official power, admitted in an interview in 2006 that he pocketed taxpayer money for travel expenses that his campaign had already paid. Click here to read the Texas Tribune article.  For years he had been double dipping, submitting the same receipts to his campaign and the state for airline tickets, meals, incidentals; collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign had already spent more than $100,000 since 2000. This resulted in his campaign covering these travel costs, while he pocketed the profit by reimbursing himself with taxpayer money.

The Attorney general has not done enough to stop criminals like Driver.  Abbott’s ethics probes have been terribly inadequate.  Of the 57 probes he has started since his term in office began in 2002 only half of those resulted in convictions and a majority of those were for only minor infractions.

Abbott is a power broker with a political war-chest of over 8 million dollars.  Ninety nine percent of that can be traced back to business interests, more than $1 million from the business sector with the top contributors Houston homebuilder Bob Perry who gave the attorney general $470,265 in addition to Houston’s John Nau, Kenny Troutt, who made a fortune from his Excel phone company and energy and water investor T. Boone Pickens following close behind.

Texans need a justice agency they can trust to stop this hijacking of our democracy politicians that are either being rented by big business lobbies or are trying to get a cut of the action.

It Was A Gift, Not a Contribution

Legislative power broking has become normal practice in Texas.  Lobbyists’ daily activities in the capital involve massaging the backs of legislative members and their staff with gifts of food and activities, and functional bribes, in the form of monetary campaign promises or the problem State Representative Kino Flores (D-Palmview) in the valley encountered.

Flores had been receiving money from local businesses for years and not properly filing required reports on them. He was indicted for accepting gifts and failure to report them to the state. Overall, he failed to disclose $115,000 to $185,000 of income each year from 2004 to 2009.

Blatant corruption taints our democracy, how can citizens believe in their governments officials to manage the state, when the balance of power has gradually shifted to the moneyed elite. The general population is so removed from policy implementation they usually only show interest in issues that directly affect them; making it appear that they are okay with a level corruption when the reality is that they are unaware of the corruption or feel powerless to do anything about it. This is inherent to our economic system that demands efficiency and results at the expense of ethics.

Politicians for Sale or Rent, Rooms to Let – 50 Cents

Politicians aren’t for sale in Texas, they are for rent.  There was a study done by Larry Bartels professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Government about economic inequality and congressional response. Bartels found that senators are more likely to respond to concerns brought forward by members of the top ⅓ of their district’s total constituency. Bartels also found that senators never voted or responded to the concerns of the lower economic ⅓.  Click here to read the report.

If the game is rigged towards the top ⅓ of our population because money buys influence, what are the rest of us supposed to do to get our voices heard? 

Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen and 15 other advocates from legislative watchdog groups had an answer. On April 10th, testifying in front of the Texas Sunset Advisory Committee they urged the committee to make the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) an enforcement agency and to expand their authority to investigate beyond minor infractions.  In addition, they recommended that a TEC enforcement director be given greater authority to subpoena records, that the legislature expands what is disclosed by candidates each election cycle and that they create a limit on the amount that individuals can contribute.

Public watchdogs speaking out against corruption at the TEC Sunset hearing is tantamount to sustaining what is left of our democracy in Texas. It’s impossible to place personal responsibility on the people for not participating in rooting out corruption because the power is not in their hands and the very folks responsible for representing them are being bought by big business groups.

Public Citizen and other watchdog groups are the vanguard of citizens who are committed to accountability.  We hold those in the government, who believe their positions put them above the law, accountable and demand that there be a reverse in the flow of power back to the people.  Public hearings like the one on April 10th allow us the ability to present our grievances.

The system may be sluggish and cumbersome, but Public Citizen is committed to maintaining and expanding a network of allies who are committed to holding Texas government officials accountable for the misuse and abuses of power.

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Harold Simmons built a West Texas dump for radioactive waste that is bigger than 1,000 football fields, paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and got a permit for it in Texas, and is now working to fill it.

To turn it into a profitable enterprise, the Texas billionaire has now hired lobbyists to urge the Obama administration to expand the types of nuclear waste, including depleted uranium, the dump can accept and award his company disposal contracts.

Click here to read the Bloomberg story on the influence of money on this regulatory issue.

Click here  and here and here and here, to read earlier blog posts about Harold Simmons, his Texas political contributions and the WCS radioactive waste dump.

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Gov. Rick Perry has replaced all six of the Texas commissioners who sit on the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission reappointing only two previously serving commissioner.  The TLLRWDCC commissioner terms were modified by Senate Bill 1605 as part of the 82nd Legislature giving Perry the ability to replace commissioners whose positions he didn’t like with new commissioners.

The appointees were:

  •  Eric J. Doyal of Houston, a senior associate at Capital Point Partners. He is appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2013.
  • Andrews County Judge Richard H. Dolgener, Dolgener was first appointed in 2008 and is appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2015.
  • Milton B. Lee II of San Antonio, a registered professional engineer and retired CEO of CPS Energy who left amid the shakeup following the municipally owned utility’s failure to disclose a dramatic price increase in the estimated cost of two new nuclear reactors to the City Council before a major bond vote.  He is appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2013.
  • Linda Morris of Waco, a licensed medical health physicist and the Department Chair of the  Environmental Health & Safety Technology Department at Texas State Technical College. She is appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2017.
  • John Matthew Salsman of College Station, a certified health physicist and the director of Environmental Health and Safety at Texas A&M University. He is appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2017.
  • Robert Wilson of Lockhart, an attorney and partner at Jackson, Sjoberg, McCarthy and Wilson. He is re-appointed for a term to expire Sept. 1, 2017, and will serve as chair of the commission for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor.

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In a recent NPR show, former Labor Secretary and political commentator Robert Reich addressed the potential executive order by President Obama to require government contractors to disclose their political spending. Reich wants to take the executive order a step farther by eliminating all political contributions from government contractors. Reich explains that contractors such as Lockheed Martin get a large portion of their contracts from the federal government and then use that money to lobby members of Congress.

However, not everyone is as much of a fan of the proposed order as Reich. Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling was scheduled to attend a breakfast yesterday morning hosted by a PAC fro Fluor which is a major government contractor. Last week Rep. Hensarling voted in favor of an amendment to counteract President Obama’s executive order. Adam Smith of Public Campaign wrote on his website ” I wonder if Hensarling discussed his concern about the influence of money in our political process with the government contractor lobbyists handing him money this morning.”

In addition, this cycle has left many Congressional staffers feeling as though Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has changed the game in Congress as showed in a recent Public Citizen survey. Furthermore, as Stephen Colbert demonstrated, the Citizens United ruling made it much easier for unlimited funds to flow into politics.

Colbert proves just how dangerous the Supreme Court ruling can become. He jokes about the implications, but in Texas it is very real. In Texas, individuals as well as corporations have always had a major impact in elections and legislation. Most recently, a new Texans for Public Justice report shows that Bob Perry along with two conservative PAC’s gave substantial amounts of money to opponents of the new Home Owner Association Reform bill. Anther report by Texans for Public Justice shows that the Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons gave money to more than 61 percent of the Texas House of Representatives. Of that group, 83 percent of them voted in favor of the out-of-state nuclear waste bill. Public Citizen advocates for the government to serve the voters and not corporate special interests such as Bob Perry’s Homes or Harold Simmons‘ corporations. Public Citizen Texas fights for clean and fair elections through public financing, not corporate funded elections. We also want greater accountability in government. The public should know where political contributions are coming from, especially when corporations are involved. Because as Stephen Colbert said that the American Dream is about people working hard enough so “someday they can go on to create a legal entity which can then collect unlimited funds [for elections].”

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All rights reserved by Public Citizen Texas

Infamously dubbed by Dallas Magazine “Dallas’ Most Evil Genius”, socialite and energy tycoon Harold Simmons is no stranger to Texas lobbying.  As this blog previously reported in January, Simmons has contributed $1.12 million from 2001 to September 2010 to Rick Perry significantly increasing his contributions between 6/25/2009 and 9/30/2010 totaling $600,000 in a 15 month period or more than doubling his previous contributions. Now why did Simmons increase his campaign contributions? Perhaps it’s been used to grease the wheels on his  recently passed radioactive waste bill SB 1504 allowing Simmons’ company Waste Control Specialists a monopoly on Texas low-level radiation waste disposal.

Simmons’ money didn’t stop at Perry. According to the Texans for Public Justice, Simmons paid $182, 350 in the 2010 election cycle to 92 members of the House, 94% Republicans and 6%  Democrats. Obviously, all of this is significant because of the recent vote in the House on bill SB 1504. 76% of the members who received Simmons contributions or $138,350 voted with the money, yea, while only 13% or $24, 500 voted nay and 11% or $19,500 abstained from voting. Contrary to a damning report by Public Citizen addressing the dangers of nuclear waste disposal , 84% of the House members who took Simmons’ money voted following the company line while only 16% or 15 members abstained from voting or voted nay.

Simmons granted a rare interview to the Dallas Business Journal in 2006 offering an eerie outlook on his lobbying efforts “It took us six years to get legislation on this passed in Austin, but now we’ve got it all passed. We first had to change the law to where a private company can own a license [to handle radioactive waste], and we did that. Then we got another law passed that said they can only issue one license. Of course, we were the only ones that applied.

Most House Members Who Took Simmons’ Money Voted To Grant Him A Monopoly to Import Nuclear Waste

Simmons BillVote in House No. of Members Percent of Members Total Amount From Simmons Average Amount from Simmons
Yea 108 72% $138,350 $1,281
Nay 36 24% $24,500 $681
Not Voting 6 4% $19,500 $3,250
Totals 150 100% $182,350 $1,216

House Members Taking Simmons’ Money but Bravely Went Against Their Benefactor

House Member Dist. Party Simmons Amount in 2010 Cycle 2nd Reading Vote 5/17 3rd Reading Vote 5/18
Anderson, Charles 56 R $2,000 Absent Absent
Carter, Stefani 102 R $2,000 Nay Nay
Coleman, Garnet 147 D $15,000 Yea Nay
Davis, Sarah 134 R $500 Yea Nay
Dukes, Dawnna 46 D $1,000 Nay Nay
Farrar, Jessica 148 D $500 Absent Nay
Gallego, Pete 74 D $15,000 Nay Nay
Giddings, Helen 109 D $1,000 Nay Nay
*Howard,  Donna 48 D $500 Nay Nay
Hunter, Todd 32 R $2,000 Absent Absent
Issac, Jason A. 45 R $1,000 Nay Nay
Kolkhorst, Lois 13 R $1,000 Nay Nay
*Martinez Fischer, Trey 116 D $1,000 Nay Nay
Reynolds, Ron 27 D $500 Nay Nay
Straus, Joe 121 R $15,000 Not Voting Not Voting
Villarreal, Mike 123 D $1,000 Nay Absent

*Member of House Natural Resources Committee that first approved bill.

Note: If you are interested to see  if your representative voted with the money or even received 2010 campaign contributions from Simmons please visit this link provided by TPJ, Bankroll Call: Correlating Simmons Contributions To Texas House Votes.

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In a stunning press release this morning, 20th Century Fox announced that the tiny Texas town of Andrews, home to a new nuclear waste dump owned by Waste Control Specialists, will hold a gala event to premiere one of this summer’s blockbusters, X-men: First Class.  For those not familiar, X-men follows a team of super-powered mutants. For those not familiar with the WCS facility, please read previous posts on our blog here, here, here, and here. From their press release:


APRIL 1, 2011

HOLLYWOOD, CA — X-men are “gone to Texas” for their premiere, which will take place on the grounds of the country’s newest and potentially largest nuclear waste dump.

Fox executive Tim Rothman said, “The X-men have been referred to as ‘The Children of the Atom’- so we decided to showcase that in our premiere”

Harold Simmons

While the site, owned by Waste Control Specialists and Dallas supervillain billionaire Harold Simmons, only contains so-called “low level” radioactive waste, the waste site will house all of the radioactive waste created by a nuclear reactor except for spent fuel rods, meaning there is plenty of radiation emitted by some waste products to have its desired effect:

“We’d really like to cut costs for future sequels by creating actual super-powered mutants,” said Rothman. “Who better to start irradiating than our actual cast?”

Rothman also noted that the proximity of the waste site to the Ogalalla Aquifer, which provides water to 11 states, is also ideal. “There’s how many million people who might drink this water? Surely some of them will have to get superpowers!” Several Texas environmental regulators quit their jobs in protest of the waste dump possibly leaking into the water.

Executive Producer Bryan Singer and Director Matthew Vaughn also added this statement, “We love the idea. This is the type of groundbreaking marketing we ought to do more of, and will allow us to use more practical effects in future… no, stop! They have guns to our heads and have kidnapped our families. We’re being forced to say this.This is a &#$%ing TERRIBLE IDEA. Don’t believe anything…” They were unavailable for further comment.

In an unprecedented display of corporate synergy, this will further tighten the bonds between billionaires, campaign finance spending, and Fox.  Simmons, who is known for his political contributions to Republican candidates, will donate the use of his site rather than making more ad buys attacking Barack Obama on Fox News, a sister company of  20th Century Fox. “It’s all Rupert [Murdoch]’s  money anyway, so who cares? We billionaires have to stick together. We thought we’d help out our team indirectly this time instead of giving more campaign bribes, err donations to politicians, as those usually have to be disclosed, ” a spokesperson for Simmons stated.


We here at Public Citizen Texas are aghast at this proposal and will keep our eye on further developments to try to keep you informed. We’d like to remind everyone of the date today, April 1, and to keep an eye out for tricksters who might try to pull any sort of sort of trick on folks here in Texas.  Like, say, storing a bunch of nuclear waste here, making us the dumping ground for the country. Or opening the state to radioactive waste from all over the country, turning Texas into the nation’s dumping ground.

That’s the real trick. And it’s not very funny.

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HB 2184 will probably be voted out of the Texas House State Affairs Committee later this afternoon and so far, legislation that impacts how much, from where and how safely radioactive waste will be stored at a West Texas site is moving forward in favor of the private operator, giving them the power to negotiate private deals to import waste, make a gigantic profit and do it without any oversight by Texas regulatory agencies or the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission.

According to an article in Mother Jones:

The compact allows him (Simmons) to get paid for burying other states’ nuclear trash while outsourcing much of the risk to Texas taxpayers. Though the state will receive a cut of disposal fees and $36 million to cover “corrective action” and “post-closure” expenses, it will have to bear any other cleanup costs on its own. According to a report by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission: “Potential future contamination [from the waste] could not only have a severe impact to the environment and human health, but to the State, which bears the ultimate financial responsibility for compact waste disposal facility site.

Click here to read the recent Mother Jones article on the history and issues with this site.

In light of the massive cleanup that faces Japan from the radiation that is flooding the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the wake of its ongoing recovery efforts – seemingly contributed to by Japan’s failure to adequately regulate and reign in the runaway plant operator, is it in Texas’ best interest to just let this company have their way with us?

This bill will go next to the floor of the House and if it continues to move, as we expect it will given the money and influence behind it, on to a Senate committee.  If we are to have any chance of making this bill more protective of the health, well-being and pocketbooks of regular Texans, regular Texans are going to have to let their lawmakers know they are concerned.

House State Affairs

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Texans for Lots of Radiation bring attention to Harold Simmons' donations to Texans for Lawsuit Reform

Texans for Lots of Radiation (TLR too) brought attention to the record donations raised by Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) PAC ($6.9 million in the 2010 election cycle) with help from its No. 1 donor: nuclear-waste kingpin Harold Simmons. To reduce the cost of negligently harming other people, the PAC took 12 cents of every dollar it raised from Simmons. Not coincidentally, this billionaire is imposing unprecedented liabilities on Texans by importing staggering volumes of toxic and radioactive waste into West Texas.

TLR too is an ad hoc coalition of concerned organizations that include Texans for Public Justice, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Econimic Development (SEED) Coaliton. 

Lobby Watch also finds that many of TLR’s biggest new donors are righteously litigious dudes.  Click here to read the Lobby Watch report on this PAC’s contributions and its biggest contributor.  You can also check out the TLR too website for more information. 

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Originally posted at http://www.jimhightower.com/

Thank you, California. And you, too, Florida, Maine, Missouri, and the 32 other states that intend to send a very special gift to Texas – namely, their radioactive waste. Now there’s a gift that truly keeps on giving!

Of course, Texas asked for it. Well, actually, only two Texans. They had the clout to open a private radioactive waste dump in our state. First approved in 2003, the 1,300 acre site, which endangers fresh water aquifers that supply water to thousands of people in West Texas, was originally meant to take waste from just two states. But now – thanks to this pair of insistent Texans – the dump is being opened to 36 more states! (more…)

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In December Texans for Public Justice reported that Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons had contributed $620,000 to Governor Rick Perry.  TPJ’s publication Lobby Watch questioned how Perry’s appointees could objectively regulate Simmons’ nuclear ambitions. That question looms larger after Simmons gave Perry another $500,000 this in 2010. Having given him a total of $1,120,000, Simmons now ranks as the governor’s No. 2 individual donor.1

And now, Harold Simmons, is the largest benefactor for the new Railroad Commissioner, David Porter.  According to the report filed yesterday with the Texas Ethics Commission, which covered the period from late October until the fundraising moratorium triggered by the 2011 legislative session, Porter’s largest single donation came from Harold Simmons, the owner of Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists, who delivered a check for $25,000 to Porter on Oct. 27. . . .and another check for $25,000 the same day.    Simmons also made contributions to Porter in June to the tune of  $10,000, according to Ethics Commission reports.

I think the giving levels of Harold Simmons warrant watching, especially given the fact that much of his business is regulated by state agencies, and his predilection for spending money late in the election cycle (such as a gift of half a million dollars to Texans for Lawsuit Reform- a notorious tort reform super-PAC), a trick employed by Karl Rove to escape campaign finance scrutiny until an election is looooong over.

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Well for those who have been waiting to hear how the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) voted on the new rule that would open Texas up to accepting radioactive waste from as many as 36 other states (and possibly beyond that), it is no surprise that the Compact Commission voted in favor of the rule.

Public Citizen‘s Texas director, Tom “Smitty” Smith and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition’s executive director, Karen Hadden drove through the night to the edges of the state in order to attend the hearing this morning, and have spent the better part of the day listening to the public and the Commissioners debate issues around this rule.

Karen Hadden just texted us to say:

In an outrageous demonstration of ignoring public opposition, the unfunded Compact Commision, which has no office, no bylaws and only one staff person, still managed to vote to open Texas up to radioactive waste from around the country.  In Andrews County, a late afternoon vote followed public testimony, predominantly in opposition to the radioactive waste expansion, and heated debate between the Commissioners.

Legal challenges are likely.  The Commissioners rushed this crucial vote through during the holidays ahead of the swearing in of a new Governor in Vermont and the beginning of the 82nd Texas legislative session.  They rushed this vote through in spite of concerns being expressed by legislative members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission during a December 15th Sunset Commission hearing. They rushed this vote through in spite of issues around citizens’ ability to submit their comments because of a incorrect email address listed in the Texas Register posting of the rules and instructions to the public about where to submit comments.  They rushed this through despite a motion by Commissioner Gregory to extend the comment period which they refused to do.   They rush this through and Texas got screwed.

We will post more on this vote tomorrow.

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Judge Sam Sparks of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas just dismissed the case to enjoin the Compact Commission meeting tomorrow, saying while he was concerned about the issue of citizen’s ability to participate fully, he did not have jurisdiction to enjoin the meeting, and threw the whole case out allowing the vote on the rule to go forward tomorrow.

So, the Compact Commission is still planning to meet in Andrews, Texas at 9 am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9 AM, at the James Roberts Center located at 855 Hwy 176 East, Andrews, TX 79714 . . .  Please join us if you can!


The Compact Commission is still planning to meet in Andrews, Texas at 9 am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9 AM, at the James Roberts Center located at 855 Hwy 176 East, Andrews, TX 79714 . . .  Please join us if you can!


Legal Maneuvers Still Underway
The Commission could vote on the Import rule at this meeting. Passage would allow import of radioactive waste from all the states, and through a loophole, potentially the whole world. It would be disposed of through shallow burial at the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Andrews County, Texas. The TCEQ does set license limits for the site, but the import rule sought by WCS and most members of the Compact Commission is a backhanded way to force license expansion.
Legal efforts by Public Citizen resulted in a Temporary Restraining Order for tomorrow’s meeting.  Now the AG is jumping in, although they should have nothing whatsoever to say about this, since they have made clear that they can’t represent the Commission, only individual members.
There is now a 3 pm hearing (today) with US District Judge Sam Sparks at the Federal Courthouse, 200 W. 8th Street in Austin.
Proceedings here could impact the Andrews meeting scheduled for tomorrow in Andrews, but we’re counting on the meeting still happening and heading out west after the hearing.


A hearing on the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission’s (TLLRWDCC) hearing on their proposed rule to open Texas up to taking waste from states outside the current compact states of Texas and Vermont is scheduled for 3pm in Federal Court, Judge Sam Sparks presiding. The motion was filed by GNI Strategies.

No hearing has been set on the motion to dissolve TRO in state court.





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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UPDATED: Thanks to everyone who commented!  We’ll have a blog wrapup/ news release ASAP.


And check our flikr photostream here on the blog for non moving pictures from this morning, if that’s more your thing.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled snark, already in progress. 


Supervillain Harold Simmons sitting on a pile of radioactive waste

Bond Supervillain and sometimes Grinch Harold Simmons, picture from D magazine

This morning when I woke up my precious 2 year old son, he asked if I could sing him “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch“, and while I was singing and described the Grinch’s moldy, garlicky, spider-infested brain, heart, and soul, I couldn’t stop thinking of Dallas Billionaire Harold Simmons and the unelected bureacrats who decided the holidays were the perfect time to try to permit nuclear waste coming to Texas.  And while I wouldn’t normally touch them with a 39 1/2 foot pole, touch we must.

Whatever your plans for the holidays — putting up decorations, sending cards to friends and family, buying gifts and a much-needed vacation– I’m sure they did not include telling an obscure state commission you don’t want Texas to become the nation’s radioactive waste dump.  But more than any figgy pudding, that is what we must bring, and bring it right here!

Wait… you’re saying you weren’t planning to closely read and comment on a proposed rule that would put a big ole “for sale” sign on our state for anyone with unwanted radioactive waste?

Well that’s exactly what Michael Ford, the governor’s appointed (i.e. unelected) chairman of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (i.e. radioactive waste czar), is counting on.

At a meeting announced just hours after the November polls had closed and election winners and losers had been announced, the TLLRWDCC (I know, it’s a mouthful even abbreviated) voted 5-2 to repost a rule that would allow out-of-state radioactive waste generators – primarily nuclear power plants on the coasts and in the midwest – to send  their waste here.

Worse still, the TLLRWDCC managed to post the rule the day after Thanksgiving, ensuring that media and public attention would be minimal. The posting started a 30 day comment period during which the public can let the TLLRWDCC know how they feel about it. So let’s run the numbers and… oh, fabulous, comments are due the day after Christmas! Happy holidays, indeed!

Ford brought up this bad idea last summer, but polls showed a majority of Texans didn’t like the proposal.  Bill White made it an election issue, accusing Governor Perry of making the state a radioactive waste dump to benefit his donor.  So Perry’s Waste Czar pulled the proposal, waiting until day after the election to announce that the process would move forward once more.

But announcing a meeting the day after the election with just 10-days notice for people to travel to Midland (where the capitol press would be unlikely to follow), and then posting the rule itself such that the comment period would meet the literal definition of “the holidays” was only the beginning for Mr. Ford.

A commissioner named Bob Gregory who, like Ford, was appointed by Governor Perry asked that the comment period on this rule be extended to 90 days since a 30 day comment period would transpire during the holidays when most people are too busy to pay much attention to matters of civic engagement. Mr. Ford and 4 other members of the TLLRWDCC voted against Mr. Gregory’s very reasonable solution for this very obvious problem.

The bottom line is that Mr. Ford and several of the commissioners are afraid of public scrutiny. Last spring they received over 2,000 comments from Texans opposed to the rule. That was before the issue made the front pages of newspapers all across the state, so they have good reason to be afraid.

During the holidays many Americans take time to be with family, to exercise their generosity, and to reflect on all they have to be grateful for. Mr. Ford and 4 of the other commissioners have decided to cynically use this to keep the public out of the process on this enormously important matter.

And while you’re getting dumped on, someone will get a really nice Christmas gift this year.

This smacks of a political payback. Harold Simmons, whose company owns this dump, has spread his cash far and wide, giving Governor Perry over $1 million since 2000 (making him the governor’s 2nd largest individual donor) and funding campaigns for every member of the Texas Supreme Court among others. While Simmons gets to make billions off this waste, Texans will get the responsibility for managing it for 10,000 years and cleaning it up — Mr. Simmons’ license expires in just 15 years.

But there is hope. Send your comments to the Compact Commissioners telling them the only good radioactive waste importation rule is one that bans any waste from coming to this state unless there is a national emergency. Tell them lawmakers in Texas bargained for only Vermont and Texas waste, and that’s what the people of Texas expect. And tell them that Christmas isn’t a weapon to be wielded against the public.

The Grinch about to go down a chimney

The Grinch is likely to file a defamation suit against me for comparing him to Harold Simmons.

Please go to www.TexasNuclearSafety.org where you can learn more about this issue and submit comments to the commission, and I hope you’ll give ’em what-for because they certainly deserve it.

Keep Texas from becoming what they want it to: an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots. So, Mr. Ford, Mr. Simmons– between the three of you, I think I’d take the seasick crocodile. And the three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink. Stank! STUNK!

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