Posts Tagged ‘waste control specialists’

Location of the Waste Control Specialists in Andrews Tx for Radioactive Waste Blog post

At Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste disposal pit in Andrews, Tex., space inside goes for $10,000 a cubic foot in some cases. As aging nuclear reactors retire, their most radioactive steel, concrete and other components must be shipped somewhere for burial. Photo by Michael Stravato, The New York Times

Texas is under radioactive waste assault. There is already an existing “low-level” radioactive waste dump owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews County. Weapons waste from Fernald, Ohio is already buried in one of the three pits there. The facility is now taking nuclear reactor waste from around the country and is accepting Department of Energy waste, including nuclear weapons waste. And there is an adjacent hazardous waste pit, which can accept some 2000 chemicals, many of the toxic or corrosive. WCS expects to make some $15 billion off the site, although Texans bear the risks of contamination and financial liability.

All of this is at a site for which Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) staff originally recommended denial of the license due to concerns about water contamination. There are 2 water bodies are present at the site, the the most significant of which is the southern tip of the massive Ogallala Aquifer.  Although some maps have been drawn to show that the aquifer doesn’t extend as far as the WCS disposal site, water has been present in up to 40% of the monitoring wells on the site, indicating that a hydrological connection could exists.  The site is supposed to be dry for safety reasons, but that hasn’t stopped the TCEQ from granting permits or WCS from burying radioactive waste there.

Now two new threats have emerged, including storage of very hot transuranic waste – which includes plutonium, neptunium, and americium from the failed national repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site.

Carlsbad Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Carlsbad, NM Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Texas is getting the transuranic waste unexpectedly. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is a disposal site for transuranic waste that is buried half a mile underground. The site had a fire on February 5th and a major radiation leak 9 days later. At least 21 workers were exposed to radiation. The New Mexico facility has been closed since the accident and the WCS radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas is now taking this same highly radioactive waste and storing it above ground in steel sided buildings, raising concerns about what would happen if there were tornadoes, floods or wildfires.

In addition, now Governor Perry is actively campaigning to bring spent nuclear fuel to Texas for storage. This the hottest, most dangerous of radioactive waste, the kind that was to be sent to the failed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

It is so dangerous that  shielding is required to protect humans from a lethal dose as a result of exposure to spent nuclear fuel. Even 10 years after this waste is removed from a spent fuel pool, the radiation field at one meter away is 20,000 rem/hour. It only takes a quarter of that amount to incapacitate a person immediately and cause the person’s death within one week.

The spent fuel is currently cooled and then kept in dry casks at the sites where it was generated. Storing the waste at the power plant sites raises the risks for people living in those areas, but transporting the waste to a central location increases risks for those living along transportation routes and those near the disposal site. There is simply no safe way to deal with the amount of radioactive waste we are producing in the long term.

The Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee will soon address an interim charge on how to bring this high-level waste to Texas and how much economic benefit there could be. Discussion of the risks isn’t on the agenda. It seems that the committee may be blinded by potential profit for their campaign donors.

Stay tuned and learn more at www.NukeFreeTexas.org (more…)

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Los Alamos National Laboratory has stored transuranic waste, debris, soil, tools and clothing contaminated primarily with plutonium that has been generated by its activities above ground for years. In 2011, the largest forest fire in the history of New Mexico came within 3.5 miles of this waste causing the state of New Mexico to ask Los Alamos to ship 3,706 cubic meters of above-ground waste from the lab to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M by June 30 of this year.

A month ago we reported on a fire at the 15 year old WIPP site in our blog about a Texas interim charge tostudy the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas and determine the potential economic impact of permitting a facility in Texas. Make specific recommendations on the state and federal actions necessary to permit a high-level radioactive waste disposal or interim storage facility in Texas“.  We followed up two weeks later with a report about radiation alarms going off at the same site. 

WIPP has been closed indefinitely while they investigate the fire and the radiation leaks.  In the meantime, we have learned that New Mexico plans to ship the last 20 percent of the Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear waste to the commercial Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Andrews, Texas starting April 1st.

What we want to know is:

  • Who authorized the importation of waste that had been slated to go to WIPP?
  • What routes are being used and are the federal requirements for designating routes for this type of waste being met?
  • Have any increases in financial assurance been required as a result of accepting TRU waste from Los Alamos?
  • Is WCS seeking to import TRU waste through license amendments?
  • Wildfires are the reason given for why the waste must be moved, but the same year Los Alamos experience wildfires close by, the WCS site also had wildfires nearby. While WCS may have “a fire truck” onsite, there is only a volunteer fire department in Andrews and Texas is about to enter its wildfire season.
  • The Transuranic (TRU) waste is highly radioactive weapons waste that is supposed to be buried a half mile underground at the WIPP site. Is there any evidence that it is safe to store the TRU waste above-ground, even temporarily?

If waste outside of the compact’s license can be re-routed to WCS without so much as a “by your leave” how are Texans to be reassured that all possible care is being taken on behalf of our welfare and well-being?  And are we going to become the nation’s high level radioactive waste repository by dribs and drabs rather than by thorough review of the suitability of a site?

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We’ve recently realized that TCEQ allowed stock from Waste Control Specialists (WCS) sister company, Titanium Metals Corp to be put up as the financial assurance for their radioactive waste dump and that stock isn’t performing well right now. So we want to know, where does that leave the state of Texas and its citizens?

We hope to have this addressed at the upcoming Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (Compact Commission) meetings that are coming up this week.

  • Thursday, June 28th 5:30 PM – Joint subcommittee meeting at the Capitol – E1.028 Technical and Legal Committees
    (The process for addressing applications is yet to be determined, although the applications could be voted on the next day)
  • Friday, June 29th – 9 AM Full Compact Commission Meeting – at the Capitol – E1.028
    The Friday meeting should be televised live (but won’t be archived) and will be available for viewing at “Texas legislature online

Do come to these hearings if you are able.

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Late yesterday, in a stunning rebuke of TCEQ’s decision to deny citizens the right to show how dangerous radioactive disposal would be in West Texas, State District Court Judge Lora Livingston ordered TCEQ to reverse their decision denying the Sierra Club the right to a contested case hearing over the license granted to Waste Control Specialists to operate a radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, just east of the New Mexico border. In her order, Judge Livingston remanded the case back to the TCEQ for a contested case hearing on whether this radioactive waste can be safely disposed of in West Texas.

The Sierra Club’s won a battle in its long fight against a radioactive waste dump in West Texas when the Travis CountyJudge reversed a decision made by the TCEQ three years ago that denied Sierra Club its right to a contested case hearing on the license given to Waste Control Specialists (WCS) for the dump. Sierra Club subsequently filed a lawsuit in District Court to win that hearing, but the court date had been delayed for years.  Yesterday was the first opportunity for opponents to argue before an impartial judge about the TCEQ’s conscious decision to ignore key information about potential problems with the site. The Judge agreed that TCEQ should have granted the Sierra Club the right to oppose the license for the waste dump in a contested case hearing before state administrative law judges and now the TCEQ license has been remanded to the agency to grant the contested case hearing.

Low level radioactive waste is so dangerous that it has to be disposed of in specially designed remote and isolated sites to prevent contamination of water and air.  When Waste Control Specialists applied for a license, the staff at TCEQ reviewed the application and recommended its rejection because of their concerns about the possibility of water intrusion and contamination.  The TCEQ’s executive director overruled the recommendation of the staff and recommended issuing the license.

In light of the staff’s concerns, the Sierra Club requested a hearing on the application. That request was denied and the license was issued by two of the three TCEQ commissioners appointed by Governor Perry. Six months later TCEQ’s executive director went to work for WCS.

New information has recently come to light about the WCS site  pertaining to the potential for water to come into contact with radioactive materials. According to data provided by TCEQ., water has been detected in monitoring wells at the facility for the last several months. An expert report authored by geologist George Rice and entitled, Occurrence of Groundwater at the Compact Waste Facility Waste Control Specialists Facility Andrews County, Texas, points out that infiltration of rainwater and movement of groundwater was already occurring within the buffer zone of the “Compact Waste Site” as recently as this March.

Just last week, the TCEQ granted WCS the right to receive radioactive waste at the site and begin operations despite the Sierra Club’s appeal to State District Court.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club said, “This ruling confirms what we have been saying all along. The Sierra Club and its members in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico deserve the opportunity to show that radioactive waste dumped at the WCS site could impact people in the area through airborne radioactive particles and potential groundwater contamination. TCEQ should immediately stop operations at the WCS site and follow the judge’s order and grant the Sierra Club’s request for an expeditious but fair contested case hearing on the license for the dump site.”

Rose Gardner lives within four miles of the WCS radioactive waste facility and was represented in this case by Sierra Club. “I’m very glad about the judge’s decision, since we’ll now have a hearing where we can fully examine radioactive risks to our land and water. We now have more livestock than ever before and having the WCS radioactive waste dump nearby threatens our health and safety. TCEQ blocked this hearing before and needs to be more open with information and opportunities for citizens to participate,” said Gardner.

“This case is of national significance because the dump’s biggest investor is Harold Simmons, one of the largest contributors to Republican political campaigns and attack ads. He helped to fund the “Swift  Boat Veterans for Truth”  and  the “Obama is a Muslim”  attack ads. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Simmons has spent $18 million so far this election cycle and plans to spend a total of $36 million before the end of this cycle. Why would he spend that kind of money?  The amount and types of waste could be vastly expanded by a Republican President or Congress thus increasing the amount of money Simmons can make off of the dump and  increasing the funds he has available to donate to future political campaigns. And if anyone doubts that his political spending will pay off in favorable treatment, all they have to do is look at how successful he’s been in Texas”  said Tom “Smitty”  Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas Office.

“This is a big victory for the citizens of Texas and New Mexico. The TCEQ knew this case was likely to be decided this week, but rushed to sign off on the dump site late last month, allowing radioactive waste to start coming into Texas, showing just how much political pressure Harold Simmons, the chief financial investor of WCS, can exert on Texas politics and agencies. The first shipments of radioactive waste arrived just 10 days ago.  We call on TCEQ to act responsibly and reverse their decision granting that permit,” said Karen Hadden of  the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

The SEED Coalition and Public Citizen have been actively involved in opposing the recently adopted rule to open up the WCS facility to accepting waste from the rest of the nation and continue to monitor the transparency and accountability around this rule change.

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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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With the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) approving rules that open up of the WCS dump site to out of compact waste, we may soon see low level radioactive waste from Nebraska Public Power District’s nuclear facility heading to Texas.

The deal between WCS and Nebraska’s Cooper Nuclear Station still must be finalized, but the waste they are looking to send would include radioactive resins, filters and other equipment.  Currently, low-level waste from Cooper Nuclear Station is stored in on-site pools that also hold used nuclear fuel rods because no other disposal site took either out of compact waste, or did not take the “hotter” C level waste.

With the opening up of the Texas waste site, you can bet other nuclear power plants around the country are looking to free up space in their spent fuel pools as these aging plants near the end of their planned life.  Many of these plants are at a point where they are looking to get relicensed, and with the lack of a national respository for the spent fuel rods, will need to show that they have adequate on site storage for another 20 years of spent fuel.  Removing “low-level” radioactive waste from on site is going to be important to that process, and Texas is looking good to them as an option to making that happen.

While there was concern about there being enough room at the WCS site for Texas and Vermont (the two states in our Compact), the commission set aside space for our two states, however you can be sure other states will be clamoring for what’s left.  Then what – an expansion of the site?

Oh, just another thing to ponder over.  The San Antonio Current reported in their Que Que blog that in 1992, an earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale struck Lea County, New Mexico, just across the Texas-New Mexico border from the radioactive waste dump operated by Waste Control Specialists in western Andrews County.

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Trucks carrying low-level radioactive waste from 38 states could start rolling down Texas highways bound forburial at a dump in Andrews County on the Texas / New Mexico border as early as April,.

The state’s commission (Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission) overseeing disposal of low-level waste in Texas may approve the final rule changes needed this Friday, March 23rd. State lawmakers cleared the way with a new law passed late in the 82nd legislative session and state regulators still need to sign off on the burial site’s construction, but it seems inevitable that Texas is going to become the nation’s radioactive dumping ground.

The Compact Commisson meeting is scheduled to begin at 9am on Friday, March 23rd in the Texas Capitol Extension at  1400 North Congress, Austin, Texas in Hearing Rm. E1.024,  We’ve provided the meeting agenda below and encourage any who are interested to attend the hearing.


1. Call to Order

2. Roll Call and Determination of Quorum

3. Introduction of

a. Commissioners

b. Elected Officials

c. Press

4. Public Comment (Note: Pursuant to Article IV, Section Two (c) of the Commission¿s Bylaws, the Commission [subject to such time constraints as may be established by the Chair] also will provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the Commission on each item on the agenda during the Commission¿s discussion or consideration of the item.

5. Discussion and possible action with regard to the final adoption of amendments to Rule 675.23 (Importation of Waste from a Non-Compact Generator for Disposal) (31 TAC 675.23) with changes from the proposed amendments to the rule as published in the Texas Register on January 20, 2012 (37 Tex. Reg. 184).

A) Receive and discuss the report of the Rules Committee (Mr. Lee [Chair], Mr. Salsman, Mr. Saudek, and Mr. Wilson) with respect to its deliberations after the publication of the proposed amendments to Rule 675.23 (31 TAC 675.23) as published in the Texas Register on January 20, 2012 (37 Tex. Reg.184).

B) Receive and act on the recommendations of the Rules Committee with respect to

(i) the final adoption (with changes) of proposed amendments to Rule 675.23 (31 TAC 675.23) as published in the Texas Register on January 20, 2012 (37 Tex. Reg. 184); and

(ii) the filing and publication of Rule 675.23 (31 TAC 675.23) as finally adopted in the Texas Register.

 6. Discussion and possible action on the following petitions for export: A) South Texas Project B) Vermont Yankee C) Luminant

7. Discussion among Commission members about methods of processing and evaluating applications for Agreements for importation of waste for disposal in accord with Compact Commission Rules and with Texas requirements expressed in Chapter 401 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, including quantities and revenue expectations and including possible action to appoint one or more Committees in connection with the processing of applications for Agreements for importation.

8. Discussion on and possible action on Bionomics Request for Import Agreement.

9. Presentation of Site status report and outlook from Waste Control Specialists Inc.

10. Presentation from Advocates for Responsible Disposal in Texas concerning Compact site use plans and issues.

11. Site status report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality including discussion of plans for actions on commingling rule change effort and actions on site licensing and disposal site rate case actions.

12. Receive a report from and possibly take action in response on any recommendations from the Committee on the Commingling Rule (Ms. Morris [Chair], Mr. Saudek and Mr.Wilson)

13. Chairman¿s report on Compact Commission activities including reporting on fiscal matters and on status of filling needs for staffing.

14. Discussion and possible action regarding the provisions of existing Compact Commission Rule 675.21(l) (31 TAC 675.21(l)).

15. Determination of date and location of next meeting.

16 Adjourn.

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Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) is seeking several amendments to its Radioactive Material License # R04100 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  Five of the amendments request design changes to the Compact Waste Disposal Facility (CWF) and the Federal Waste Facility (FWF) for commercial and federal low-level radiactive waste disposal. The other two amendment applications set forth new Waste Acceptance Criteria that includes rates and contract considerations and new pavement design considerations.

Just as important, TCEQ is considering revising language and definition for waste of international origin, acceptance criteria, reporting of inventory and liability coverage as well as the issued TCEQ waste water permit.

TCEQ is accepting public comments and requests for a public meeting.  These can be submitted by mail to:

the Office of the Chief Clerk
MC 105
P. O. Box 13087

or electronically at www.tceq.state.tx.us/about/comments.html by December 17th.

If you need more information about the license application or the licensing process, please call the TCEQ Office of Public Assistance at 1-800-687-4040.

We will post the link to the amendment applications as soon as we are able to find them.  TCEQ recently migrated its database and the links no longer work.  Makes finding materials to base written comments on a bit more complicated.

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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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According to the Fox news station in Salt Lake City, UT, controversy has arisen about EnergySolutions’ plans to dispose of what they call blended radioactive waste at its Clive Facility in the west desert of Utah.

There are three classifications of waste: A, B and C, all radioactive. Only the lowest level, type A, is allowed in Utah, but Energy Solutions says it’s found a way to blend and store the waste safely by mixing higher-level class C waste with low-level waste and labeling it class A – are you buying this, cause I’m pretty skeptical and it just sounds like fiction to me.  This magic would take place at a facility in Tennessee according to EnergySolutions.

EnergySolutions may have found a legal loophole that would allow them to store higher level radioactive waste at the Clive facility, but ultimately, the Utah Division of Radiation Control will decide whether the blended waste can be disposed in Utah.

In the meantime, William Dornsife, executive vice president of WCS, the Texas company building a radioactive waste disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas is telling Utah to bring it on. He wants the waste to go to Texas, not Utah.

Texas is licensed to take class A, B and C waste without the blending alchemy that EnergySolutions is proposing, and there is a lot of money at stake — potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.  WCS and billionaire Harold Simmons are salivating at the opportunity to spend what they probably see as the political capital with which they walked away from the 82nd Texas legislative session earlier this year to rake in the profits at the expense and liability of the Texas taxpayer.

Face it Texas, we are now the radioactive waste capital of the country.

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The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission will meet Saturday, August 20, 2011, at 10:30 AM in the James Roberts Center, 855 Hwy 176 East, Andrews, TX 79714.  Don’t know yet what they will have on their agenda, but they say it will be posted in the Texas Register and on the Commission website when available.

Click here to read more about legislation that passed this session, opening the state wide to accept radioactive waste from around the country and giving Waste Control Specialists, the operator of the Texas waste site, carte blanche for much of the regulation of this site.

Have Questions?  Contact the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission

Telephone: 512-820-2930
Mailing Address:
3616 Far West Blvd., Ste. 117, # 294
Austin, Texas  78731
NOTE:  This is a mailing address only and not the physical location of the Commission.

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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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Senate Bill 1504 (by Seliger: R-Amarillo and Hinojosa: D-McAllen) the riskiest bill for the environment this session will be heard on the Texas house floor on Tuesday, May 17th.  If passed in its current form, the risks include:

  • Risk that we won’t have enough space for our own waste
  • Risk of an unfunded taxpayer liability
  • Risk from a radioactive rollover
  • Risk that we might contaminate the nation’s largest aquifer, which is nearby

This bill divorces the risk from the profit in the Texas radioactive waste industry putting the liability for a private radioactive waste disposal site on the taxpayers of Texas while putting billions into the pockets of a Texas billionaire.

It’s time to call our legislators- Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives (make sure you select” House” as your District Type”) and give your state legislator a callTell them NO on SB 1504.

A report released April 28th by Public Citizen’s Texas office finds that we could expect a substantial increase in radioactive transportation accidents.  According to WCS’s own transportation study, Texas can expect to have 4,500 trucks rumbling across the state on I-10, I-20, I-30, I-40 and I-27 each year.  That works out to 1,000 trucks per highway, or 3 per day.  The state is simply not prepared to deal with the possibility of a radioactive roll over at an emergency response level or at a financial liability level.  In the event of a transportation accident involving radioactive waste, Texas would have only $500,000 available to cover emergency response, health care and property damage costs, that amount is far too little.

Concern about taxpayer liability is also spelled out in the report which claims that the dump site being constructed in Andrews County does not have adequate capacity to receive waste from outside the state.  It cites a 2000 study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (see http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/assets/public/permitting/llrw/entire.pdf for a copy of the study) and an estimate produced by the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, both showing the site to be short on capacity for just the Texas and Vermont waste it was originally intended to handle.

We are recommending to members of the Texas Legislature that they vote against SB 1504 and not allow importation until the risks have been addressed and capacity at the site exists.  It has taken 30 years to start construction on a site for our own waste. SB 1504 would likely send us back to the drawing board if we don’t have space for our own waste.

The people of Texas are at risk from a leak at the site, which is located dangerously close to the Ogallala Aquifer and is only 150 feet from groundwater.  If the dump site located in the west Texas county of Andrews were to leak, the cleanup cost could be anywhere from three to 50 times the amount set aside by the site operator, Waste Control Specialists (WCS). Two examples of radioactive leaks – include one in South Texas that garnered a $384 million cleanup bill, and another in New York that is estimated at $5 billion.

You can help!

Call your legislator and tell them to not put the cart before the horseTell them NO on SB 1504.When the legislature voted to let a private facility run our Compact Facility, they told us that this would help prevent it from becoming a national dumping ground, and we believed you.  Now SB 1504 is doing just the opposite.  The legislature should first look at taking our Texas waste and study the capacity of the site before turning us into the national dumping ground. Vote No on SB 1504.

Click here to read a copy of the report. (more…)

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In spite of, Governor Rick Perry’s designation of this past Easter weekend as official days of prayer for rain, Texas is expected to break its yearly record for the number of acres burned by wildfires, with officials warning that today through Wednesday would see a high risk of fresh blazes.

2006 set the previous record of acres burned in one entire year at 1.94 million. So far this year, the figure is 1.84 million, and we’re just in April.  We’ve still got summer and a lot of the fire season left.

Meanwhile, a state report has found that many of the Texas counties that endured the worst damage from this month’s wildfires received only a small portion of the more than $128 million the state awarded to volunteer fire departments over about a decade for training and equipment.

According to the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association, there are 1,042 volunteer departments in Texas with about 28,000 firefighters and these make up the first line of defense for many of the counties that have been battling wildfires recently.

The sunset commission’s analysis, which was released in January and is currently being considered by the Texas Legislature, found counties with a low risk for wildfires had received a greater share of the $128 million handed out through the Texas Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program than many of those with the highest risk.  Specifically, 59 of the 74 counties determined to have a high risk for wildfires got less than $1 million in grant money for their volunteer fire departments from 2001 through 2009.

Three of the high-risk counties that received less than $1 million — Tom Green, Andrews and Palo Pinto — have been significantly affected by the current fires.

Andrews County is home to WCS’s hazardous waste dump, that could soon be open to “low-level” radioactive waste coming into the state from all over the country.  In addition to radioactive waste disposed of at the site, thousands of truckloads of radioactive waste could be traversing the Texas countryside over roads in counties prone to wildfire.  If an accident happens while our first responders are working to the point of exhaustion at local wildfires, I shudder to think about the consequences to the folks near an accident and the liability to the state.  I think the Governor needs to expand the parameters of his call to prayer.

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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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