Douglas Officials Will Vote To Expand Nuclear Waste Dump

Monday, 12/27/10 5:50pm and Tuesday, 12/28/10

John Dillon
VPR News

Listen to podcast at VPR News (2:30)

(Host) Officials with the outgoing Douglas administration will vote in favor next week of expanding a nuclear waste dump that Vermont shares with Texas.

That’s even though Governor-elect Peter Shumlin asked that the vote be delayed so his staff could have time to evaluate the plan.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Vermont and Texas now share exclusive rights to a low level radioactive waste site to be built in west Texas.

But the eight-member commission that oversees the project will vote next week on a proposal to open up the site to 36 other states.

It’s a controversial plan. Texas environmentalists are fighting the expansion. And Governor-elect Peter Shumlin says he’s worried that Vermont could get squeezed out if other states are allowed in. So he’s asked for a brief time out.

(Shumlin) "I would urge our two commissioners to not get on the plane to Texas to give my administration the time to really evaluate the deal and make sure it’s as good as it can be."

(Dillon) Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien is Governor Jim Douglas’s point person on utility issues. O’Brien says the Vermont members of the commission will fly to Texas for the vote next week.

(O’Brien) "I think this is what we believe is in the best interest of the state. I think there will be ample opportunity for the new administration to have an imprint on this. I sure hope that they look at this very closely before they unwind anything we’ve done."

(Dillon) The Vermont members of the commission were named by the Douglas administration, and they were the swing votes in favor of the expansion proposal. As governor, Shumlin could replace them with new members, who could block the dump expansion.

O’Brien says he and his staff have worked on the radioactive waste issue for years.

(O’Brien) "I think that for some people that maybe this is a new issue, but this is an effort that’s been going on for, gosh, the better part of all the eight years that I’ve been commissioner."

(Dillon) But Shumlin is not the only one calling for a second look at the expansion. Bob Gregory is a commissioner from Austin, Texas. He opposes the expansion plans and says the process should be slowed down.

Gregory says Vermont risks losing access to the dump if the facility is allowed to accept waste from three dozen other states.

(Gregory) "I think the license facility or the license capacity can be consumed before Vermont gets to the point that it needs it for the disposal of the waste from Vermont Yankee’s plant."

(Dillon) But David O’Brien – who will leave his post in early January – says Vermont’s interests are protected.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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