Texas commission to retool nuclear waste plan


By BETSY BLANEY / Associated Press
Dallas Morning News

A commission overseeing low-level radioactive waste disposal in Texas has withdrawn and will revise proposed rules that could allow 36 other states to send nuclear waste for burial near the New Mexico line.

Bob Gregory of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission said Monday the panel voted unanimously Saturday to pull the proposed rules as initially published and repost them with some amendments and revisions.

A representative from the Texas Attorney General’s Office told the commission during a Saturday meeting it could not change the rules then because there was nothing on the agenda to allow it, said Chuck McDonald, spokesman for Waste Control Specialists, the company that operates the waste site about 30 miles west of Andrews in West Texas.

The law requires the commission to republish the rules with the changes and then consider them at a future meeting, Thomas Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in an e-mail.

"Significant changes were made to the rules and the law requires re-publishing under those circumstances," Kelley’s e-mail stated.

The commission’s agenda Saturday did not include a vote on the rules that were published in February.

It was not clear Monday when the new rules would be published in the Texas Register. Texas law requires the rules be posted for 30 days, followed by a minimum 30-day comment period, before a vote can be taken.

Gregory said he had as many as 30 pages of revisions he wanted considered, and another commissioner wanted to add an amendment.

"I’m pleased that additional time is being given for a much more thorough discussion and consideration and revisions that were certainly needed, in my opinion," he said.

If adopted, the rules would allow low-level material from 36 states’ nuclear power plants, hospitals, universities and research labs to be buried at a site near the New Mexico border.

McDonald said Waste Control Specialists wants the commission to do its job.

"We had no objection to the delay," he said Monday.

Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, said she was pleased. Her group opposes letting states other than Texas and Vermont bring nuclear waste to West Texas. The proposed rules would change a pact initially made between Texas and Vermont.

"Basically, we gained a delay," Hadden said. "I think it’s a good thing. I hope they take their time. These rules are really important."

Hadden and other opponents of the huge dumping ground say the waste will pollute groundwater and harm the environment. Waste Control Specialists contends it’ll be safe, and many local residents applaud expansion as a way to bring more jobs and prosperity to the West Texas scrubland.

Proponents in Andrews outnumber those against the low-level dump site, which has not yet been built. Approval of its design and precise location is pending from the state environmental regulators.



Waste Control Specialists LLC: http://www.wcstexas.com

Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission: http://www.tllrwdcc.org

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: http://www.tceq.state.tx.us

Nuke Free Texas: http://www.nukefreetexas.org

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