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Ding-Dong Dumping on Texas' Doorstep; Judy Bonds' Legacy

By Jim Hightower, Fri., Jan. 28, 2011

Ding-Dong Dumping on Texas' Doorstep

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, 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 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!

Who are these dump-on-Texas enthusiasts? One is a right-wing Dallas billionaire named Harold Simmons, who is the chair of a corporation called Waste Control Specialists. This company's "specialty" is hustling government contracts for its own fun and profit. Indeed, Simmons' outfit is the sole company in the whole USA to be licensed by the Texas environmental agency to import this waste into our state.

Now, from stage right, enters Gov. Rick Perry, who rose from being a Texas A&M cheerleader to leading cheers for the Simmons dump. Why is Perry so peppy for radioactive waste? Because Simmons is his second largest campaign money man, having dumped $500,000 into the governor's re-election effort last year alone.

Only two months after November's election, the commission overseeing radioactive waste disposal voted on Jan. 4 to increase the profitability of Simmons' dump by letting him haul in waste – and profits – from 36 more states. All six Texans on the commission were appointed by Perry.

If you're keeping score on this exciting game of quid pro quo, it's $500,000 for Perry, untold millions for Simmons, and zero for the people.

Judy Bonds' Legacy

Chances are that an art museum, symphony hall, university building, or other public edifice in your area is emblazoned with the name of some prominent rich man. His name is up there in shiny brass, we're told, because he's a model citizen for all to emulate.

Of course, we know that his name is there only because he's richer than Zeus and gave a bale of money to get the institution to immortalize him in brick and brass. And don't even ask what he did to get so rich.

The real model citizens, in my view, are not those who are publicly glorified but those regular folks across our land who rise up against greed and injustice, usually fighting with no public acclaim. Ironically, they're often battling injustices perpetrated by the very same rich men whose names are so garishly splashed across our public buildings.

Sadly, we recently lost one model citizen with the death of Judy Bonds, a spirited woman from Marfork Hollow, down in the coalfields of West Virginia. Forced out of her ancestral home a decade ago by the profiteering barons of mountaintop strip-mining, Bonds became the barons' worst nightmare: an enraged, fearless, knowledgeable, determined, and eloquent grassroots activist.

From the hollers of Appalachia to the halls of Congress, from town meetings to university lecture halls, this tireless champion of environmental justice took Appalachia's dirty secret – the grotesque destruction that coal company greed is wreaking on the mountains, streams, and people there – into the national spotlight. Passionate, funny, and inspiring, Bonds was known as the Hillbilly Moses, rallying local coalitions to battle the greed and galvanizing a national movement to stop the ravages of mountaintop removal.

Bonds is gone, but her spirit lives on in the movement she built. To connect with it, go to Coal River Mountain Watch at www.crmw.net.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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