Texas & Nuclear Waste: Federal Judge Opens Path For Expansion

Environmental groups are crying foul over a federal judge's decision to lift a ban on allowing a state commission to greatly expand Texas's ability to accept nuclear waste from other states.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said Tuesday he had no jurisdiction to stop the vote by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission even though the board's public-comment procedure on the proposed vote was flawed.

Texas can currently accept waste from Vermont only; a move is underway that would allow it to take it from 36 states because, you know, the more the merrier.

"We are outraged that a federal court has dissolved the temporary restraining order. Once again, the federal courts have denied Texans' rights to participate in decisions made by their government," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office.

The commission is moving quickly partly because the soon-to-be governor of Vermont, who appoints two of the commission's eight members, has expressed concerns about expanding the site in West Texas. Environmentalists say the company running the site is trying to push through the expansion before he takes office Thursday.

An improper e-mail address was given for public comments on the proposed expansion, and Smith and others said that prevented the public's voice from being heard. Kevin Sadler, a lawyer for the company that runs the site, said more than 5,000 e-mails had been received after the error was corrected, showing the public had enough of a chance to take part in the debate.

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, the site doesn't deal with waste from nuclear plants.

The waste, which would be buried in concrete canisters, does not include spent nuclear fuel or material from nuclear weapons. Most of it is material or hardware from nuclear power plants or syringes, protective clothing, glassware and rags from hospitals and academic labs.

The paper estimates expansion could be worth "billions of dollars" which would benefit Waste Control Systems, a company owned by one of Governor Rick Perry's biggest campaign supporters.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly