A District Court ruled today that Texas’ environmental agency should have allowed a contested case hearing prior to licensing WCS low level radioactive waste dump in West Texas
For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
For More Information:
Tom "Smitty" Smith – 512-797-8468
Trevor Lovell – 512-477-1155
Statement of Tom "Smitty" Smith, Director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, on Today’s State District Court Ruling Remanding the License for the WCS Radioactive Waste Facility in West Texas to TCEQ for a Contested Case Hearing
This case has national significance because it involves Harold Simmons, one of the largest contributors to Republican political campaigns and attack ads. The amount and types of waste could be vastly expanded by Congress thus increasing the amount of money Simmons can make off of the dump, increasing the funds he has available to donate to future political campaigns
(Austin) Travis County State District Court Judge Livingston, overturned 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 its radioactive waste site. Sierra Club subsequently filed a lawsuit in District Court, and the hearing has been delayed for three years. The Judge ruled today that the nearby residents should have been granted a contested case to prove how they were impacted and why the site might be flawed.
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 the water intrusion and contamination. The TCEQ’s executive director overruled the recommendation of the staff and recommended issuing the license. Sierra Club and its members 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 – whose second largest donor is Harold Simmons, the chief financial investor of WCS. 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.
"This is a big victory for the citizens of Texas and New Mexico. The TCEQ knew this case was likely to be decided today 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 Simmons 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.
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 today, 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.
Tom "Smitty" Smith
Director, Texas Office
1303 San Antonio St.
Austin, TX 78701