Naked City

No Nukes? How About Just Fewer Nukes?

Last week, Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, took the first swing in fighting the importation of out-of-state radioactive waste into Texas. His HB 1656 would close a loophole in Texas law allowing for the importation of radioactive waste from across the nation, while HCR 85 puts the breaks on importation, calling for further examination of the nature of the waste.

Under current law, states enter into compacts with others to create consolidated nuclear waste disposal sites. Texas' partners are Maine and Vermont. But last summer, a briefing document from Gov. Rick Perry's office drove an 18-wheeler through holes in the compact. Unlike our current partners, which are limited in what they can unload, the briefing doc opens up a loophole that allows other states and entities outside the compact to import as much low-level radioactive waste into our cash-strapped, tax-slashing state as the Capitol can handle. "Agreements made with a person, state, regional body, or group of states are not subject to … limitation," it reads.

Villarreal's HB 1656 rectifies this by only allowing importation of waste from our initial compact partners. "We can't open our doors and become the primary radioactive waste dump for the entire United States," said Villarreal in a press release. "I filed these bills to make sure we all live up to the intent of the laws that regulate how we dispose of radioactive waste."

A separate resolution, HCR 85, would create a committee to study all the waste streams coming into Texas outside the compact. This includes nuke gunk from the likes of GOP contributor Harold Simmons' Waste Control Specialists, said Colin Leyden, legislative director for Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. Leyden, concerned with WCS's carte blanche in importing waste since the passage of HB 1567 paved the way for private companies to manage waste, continued that Sen. Robert L. Duncan, R-Lubbock, "is apparently trying to work out some kind of a tax deal [to import] Fernald, Ohio's waste." Leyden described the potential revenue as a dance with the devil, saying, "Once you tax it, you're going to end up with school districts and teachers lobbying the capitol, trying to import more radioactive waste." Calls to Duncan were not returned.

Of HCR 85, Leyden said, "We're looking for someone to file that resolution in the Texas Senate," knowing it steps on a few toes. "They have that whole gentlemanly way over there," Leyden lamented, saying Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, D-Victoria, is a big booster of importation, being a driving force behind HB 1567. "I think everyone is scared" of crossing the Natural Resources chair, he said. Calls to Armbrister also were not returned.

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