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Posts Tagged ‘waste control specialists’

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

VIDEO FROM OUR PRESS CONFERENCE !

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. 

ORIGINAL POST:

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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No Radioactive WasteNRC and EPA called upon to examine radioactive waste site and licensing process, risks of groundwater contamination and potential risks to the Ogallala Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states

AUSTIN – Environmental groups today asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the radioactive waste storage and disposal programs administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the West Texas radioactive waste site owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS).  The groups say the TCEQ has failed to protect public health, safety and the environment by repeatedly and brazenly abusing its legal authority and disregarding warnings of its technical staff about the site’s hazards. Further, citizens have not had adequate opportunities to participate in the licensing processes.

The groups are calling on the NRC to consider terminating or suspending the TCEQ’s authority to regulate the storage and disposal of low-level radioactive waste and radioactive byproducts in Texas. The groups also are asking the EPA to review the potential impact on the water supply and take action if necessary.

Read the full release, the request to NRC and EPA,and supporting documents online at www.TexasNuclearSafety.org. The request was filed by Public Citizen and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, along with State Representative Lon Burnam (Texas House District 90), and individuals from Andrews, Texas and Eunice, New Mexico, who live near the WCS facility in Andrews County. The matter is urgent because WCS has been pushing the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission to let it import radioactive waste from at least 36 other states.

Some of the hottest radioactive waste that exists, including nuclear reactor containment vessels and poison curtains that absorb reactor radiation, could be buried in the proposed radioactive waste dump. There is not a single radionuclide that can’t go to the so-called ‘low-level’ site, and many of them remain hazardous for literally millions of years.

Radioactive waste dumps around the country have leaked. Cleaning up contaminated groundwater is difficult and expensive. Texas taxpayers could be on the hook for clean up costs if the site and groundwater become contaminated or if there are transportation accidents.

Go to www.TexasNuclearSafety.org to learn more.

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Background: What the controversy is all about
On May 25, 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from issuing a permit to a refinery in Corpus Christi. EPA said that the process used to justify that permit violated the Clean Air Act.  EPA’s Region 6 Administrator, Al Armendariz, also stated that the EPA would block future permits and force polluters to comply with EPA standards if the TCEQ did not change its rules. On June 14th, EPA announced it was taking over the process for two additional air-quality permits

At issue are two types of air permits used in Texas – one known as a “flex permit” and one known as a “plant-wide applicability limit.” In both cases, instead of issuing permits that limit pollution from each individual point-source (e.g. a smokestack), TCEQ limits pollution for entire facilities, allowing operators to emit more pollution from one stack if another stack was emitting less. Studies indicate that there would be greater emission reductions if limits were done on a stack-by-stack basis.

These permits make enforcement extremely difficult at vast petrochemical and refining facilities. They also fail to protect people from emission clouds that can occur as a result of letting one stack emit more than would be allowed under the Clean Air Act.

Suppressed reports add fuel to the fire
The flex permit controversy had been brewing for some time as EPA and TCEQ battled behind closed doors, secretly playing a game of chicken with air pollution regulations. Meanwhile, another controversy was broiling beneath the surface in Fort Worth.  Elected officials from the area felt they were getting the run-around from TCEQ when they asked whether natural gas drilling and processing on the Barnett Shale was putting residents’ health at risk.

On June 1st, TCEQ admitted they had failed to divulge (i.e. suppressed) reports showing elevated benzene levels in the area.  In a statement, Mark Vickery said TCEQ “missed an opportunity” to “bolster their confidence in the quality of the air.” In reality, TCEQ knowingly presented inaccurate air-quality information to leaders and decision makers for months. Soon after, TCEQ admitted that 3 additional air-quality reports had not been made public. (more…)

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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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AUSTIN – Public Citizen Texas will be honoring the recipients of this year’s Texas Outstanding Public Service (TOPS) Awards at the organization’s 25th anniversary dinner today. The awardees are local visionaries, recognized experts and celebrated advocates who have aided in the effort to help Texas realize a more environmentally conscious and sustainable energy future.

Those receiving the TOPS Awards were chosen by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, and his staff based on their accomplishments and contributions to the overall health, safety and democracy of all Texans. This year’s lineup of winners includes two journalists, three legislators, two activists, a whistleblower, a legislative aid and a man whose lifetime of achievement merits the finest award of all.

Winners of this year’s awards include Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, Austin American-Statesman reporter Claudia Grisales, San Antonio Current reporter Greg Harman, state Reps. Dave Swinford and Rafael Anchia, citizen activists Gerry Sansing and Dr. Wes Stafford, state Sen. Wendy Davis, whistleblower Glenn Lewis and state legislative staffer Doug Lewin.

Duncan will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Duncan is a true visionary who has not only blueprinted the greening of the Austin City Council but also of the city’s public utility. He successfully transformed Austin Energy and set standards for the rest of the nation. He has been a major player in the fight for green issues for more than three decades – starting with his journey as a student activist in the 1970s, serving two terms as a member of the Austin City Council in the 1980s and eventually leading the city’s environmental department for nine years as the assistant director. Duncan is considered the architect of several of Austin’s nationally acclaimed energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including GreenChoice and the Green Building Program. Furthermore, under Duncan’s leadership, Austin Energy adopted ambitious goals to bring more solar energy to Austin, committing to the development of major solar generating capacity. Duncan was also one of a few people to realize early on that the city of Austin had the potential to reduce urban air pollution by using plug-in hybrids. He assembled a coalition of potential buyers of plug-ins in the country and implemented a program at Austin Energy that offered an incentive package for such hybrids. Although he has announced his planned retirement for next year, it will not be surprising to see him in some sort of leadership role in the city in the near future.

In a quote from Duncan published in the Austin Chronicle last month, he said, “Today, it is time for me to return to my original role as an involved citizen of Austin.” Public Citizen Texas welcomes him as such (more…)

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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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