May 10, 2010
By Heather Menzies
Bay City Tribune
Matagorda County residents showed overwhelming support for the South Texas Project’s expansion during Thursday’s public meetings to discuss the findings in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) draft environmental impact statement (EIS).
Afternoon and evening sessions were held for public comments to be made on the content of the NRC’s findings in the draft EIS.
About 85 people attended the afternoon session, with 34 making public comments – 30 in support of the combined licenses for units 3 and 4 and three who opposed expansion and challenged findings in the EIS and one who was neutral but encouraged citizens to be interveners.
Jessie Muir, NRC environmental project manager, explained NRC’s process of compiling the EIS and shared their preliminary findings.
According to Muir, the NRC quantifies impacts based on three levels – small, moderate and large.
Small means the effect is not detectable, or so minor it will neither destabilize nor noticeably alter any important attribute of the resource; moderate means the effect is sufficient to alter noticeably, but not destabilize, important attributes of the resource; and large means the effect is clearly noticeable and sufficient to destabilize important attributes of the resources.
Muir said the expansion impacts on use and quality for both surface water and groundwater would be small; and impacts for both terrestrial and aquatic species would be small.
The EIS found that radiological impacts would be small in all areas as well.
Radiological doses to the workers, to members of the public through construction and operation, and to wildlife would be small and below regulatory limits and relevant guidelines.
The environmental justice review focused on low-income and minority populations and concluded that this group would not be "unevenly affected" by the expansion.
The socioeconomic review included impacts on taxes, housing, education, traffic and public services.
The EIS found that adverse impacts range from small to moderate while the beneficial impacts range from small to large.
The environmental impacts from the uranium fuel cycle, transportation of fuel and radioactive waste and decommissioning would be small.
NRC officials along with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also studied the cumulative environmental impacts factoring in proposed projects with other past, present and "reasonably foreseeable future actions."
Muir said they considered projects like White Stallion Energy Center, STP Units 1 and 2, and also LCRA-SAWS to name a few.
The cumulative adverse impacts on the environment ranged from small to moderate, while the cumulative tax impacts would be beneficial and range from small to large.
The EIS noted a need for new baseload electric generating capacity in the region and pointed out that no feasible energy alternatives, nor alternative sites or alternative system designs would be environmentally preferable.
"So based on our environmental review, our preliminary recommendation is that the combined licenses for STP units 3 and 4 be issued," said Muir.
When public comments began, Diana Kyle, spokeswoman for U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, was the first to read into record a letter from Paul encouraging NRC to grant the license.
"I am writing in support of the South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 combined license application. This project will provide much needed energy generation capacity in he area and will have a significant positive impact on economic development in Matagorda County, which I represent," Kyle read.
State Representative Randy Weber also read a letter of support from Sen. Glenn Hegar before speaking on his own behalf in support of units 3 and 4.
Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald, Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik, and former state representative Mike O’Day were other local officials who hailed the benefits of STP’s past record on safety and corporate citizenry.
Each also mentioned the need for the economic boost through the construction phase and the addition of permanent jobs.
Owen Bludau and D.C. Dunham, local economic and community development officials, along with countless local business and real estate owners also spoke of the benefits two new reactors would bring to the community including a boost in sales tax revenues, construction of desired amenities and more jobs.
Tom "Smitty" Smith, of Public Citizen, was the first to speak in opposition of the expansion.
"I don’t think NRC has done an adequate job of analyzing the need for the plant," said Smith.
"And if the plant is not needed then we as tax payers and you as residents of Matagorda County may end up with a plant that is never completed and may end up being and economic albatross because of the federal loan guarantees and dreams unfulfilled."
Karen Hadden, of the SEED Coalition, was the next to detail her concerns with the EIS.
"The EIS does not have adequate scientific analysis on many fronts and it paints a glossy picture while minimizing risks," said Hadden.
"We have concerns with safety, security, radiation risks for the general population and for workers, radioactive waste problems that still have no solution, and the consumption of vast quantities of water."
Susan Dancer, local wildlife rehabilitator, was the third and only local commenter to express concern with STP’s expansion.
Dancer noted that, "underpaid inexperienced staff kill protected species, relocated infectious diseased specimens and kill off honey bee swarms."
She said the construction of units 3 and 4 could, in the long term, contribute to high unemployment rates when construction workers come to town for temporary jobs and then can’t find permanent work.
Dancer also criticized STP for not having enough women and minorities holding upper management positions.
Ed Halpin, STP’s president and chief executive officer; and Mark McBurnett, STP’s vice president of regulatory affairs, spoke of STP’s mission to improved lives through excellence in energy development and expressed their gratitude for community support.
Written public comments on the EIS can be made until June 9 and can be submitted online at
A copy of the draft EIS can be viewed at
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