US Senator Wellstone said regarding Bernie Sander’s Texas-Maine-Vermont Nuclear Waste Compact: “This story is depressingly familiar. A similar scenario unfolds over and over again in different parts of the country, with different names and faces in every situation. Sometimes there is no intention by anyone to discriminate. But pervasive inequalities of race, income, and access to the levers of political power exercise a controlling influence over the siting of undesirable waste dumps…
The moral responsibility of the Senate is unavoidable and undeniable. If we approve H.R. 629 without conditions, the Compact dump will be built within a few miles of Sierra Blanca. There’s really very little doubt about that. And if that happens, this poor Hispanic community could become the premier national repository for so-called “low- level” radioactive waste.
If we reject this Compact, on the other hand, the Sierra Blanca dump will not be built at all. The Texas Governor has said so publicly–more than once. It’s as simple as that. The fate of Sierra Blanca rests in our hands. In March 1985, consultants Dames & Moore delivered their report to the Authority. Using “exclusionary” criteria established by the Authority, Dames & Moore ruled out Sierra Blanca and the surrounding area, due primarily to its complex geology…
Supporters of the Compact would have us believe that the designation of Sierra Blanca had nothing to do with the income or ethnic characteristics of its residents. That it had nothing to do with the high percentage of Latinos in Sierra Blanca and the surrounding Hudspeth County–at least 2.6 times higher than the State average. That the percentage of people living in poverty–at least 2.1 times higher
than the State average–was completely irrelevant.
They would have us believe that Sierra Blanca was simply the unfortunate finalist in a rigorous and deliberate screening process that fairly considered potential sites from all over the State. That
the outcome was based on science and objective criteria. I don’t believe any of this is true…
Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA) of New York has conducted an independent investigation of the dump site and found its geology unsuitable for disposal of radioactive waste. RWMA notes that
research by the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal
Authority has found that [there is] a fault in the bedrock
buried beneath the Sierra Blanca site. Groups of earth
fissures up to seven feet deep occur nearby.
RWMA concludes that
some important natural features of the site–its seismic
hazard, its buried fault, and nearby earth fissures–are not
suited to radioactive waste isolation. In our professional
opinion, these are fatal flaws which mean that the proposed
Sierra Blanca site cannot provide a high degree of assurance
of waste containment.
Bernie Sanders lied and said: “There is widespread scientific evidence to suggest, on the other hand, that locations in Texas, some of which receive less than 12 inches of rainfall a year, a region where the groundwater table is more than 700 feet below the surface, is a far better location for this waste. This is not a political assertion, it is a geological and environmental reality.“ And, as seen above, Wellstone exposed yet another Bernie lie. Bernie lied and said that the dump would go forward regardless. Wellstone says it would not have. Bernie Sanders: “Furthermore, even if this compact is not approved, it is likely that Texas, which has a great deal of low-level radioactive waste, and we should make the point that 80 percent of the waste is coming from Texas, 10 percent from Vermont, 10 percent from Maine, the reality is that Texas will go forward with or without this compact in building a facility to dispose of their low-level radioactive waste.” http://www.c-span.org/congress/bills/billAction/?print/1410681.
Bernie Sanders recently came out in opposition to Yucca Mountain hard-rock underground nuclear waste tunnel-facility in Nevada. Not allowing Yucca to be opened increases the risk that the high level nuclear waste will be simply dropped slightly below the surface in Holtec’s proposed interim nuclear waste site in New Mexico, which cannot be monitored and most likely cannot be retrieved. There will probably also be a literal nuclear waste parking lot in west Texas, too. Yucca is near rich casino operators in Las Vegas. West Texas and southeastern New Mexico is mostly poor people. In short, if you are not from Vermont and if you are not rich, beware of Bernie Sanders. See more here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/bernie-sanders-strongly-supported-burying-vermont-nuclear-waste-in-texas-despite-opposition-poor-communities-beware-includes-transcript/
Bernie Sanders wants to give the illegal hispanic “community” amnesty, free healthcare, and free tuition, but he didn’t mind dumping Vermont nuclear waste on the legal hispanic community! He knows that nuclear is dangerous, he just wanted it out of Vermont. Bernie Sanders was 57 years old in 1998 – almost certainly too old to have changed his spots.
“[Congressional Record Volume 144, Number 77 (Monday, June 15, 1998)]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
THE TEXAS-MAINE-VERMONT COMPACT
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I would like to speak out this evening
about an enormously important issue that has seldom, if ever, been
addressed on the floor of the United States Senate. I understand my
colleague needs to leave at 7, and I am going to try to figure out a
way to accommodate him if at all possible. My understanding is, I will
also have a chance to speak more about this in morning business.
This issue I want to address tonight has variously been called
“environmental discrimination,” “environmental equity,”
“environmental justice,” or “environmental racism.” These terms are
used interchangeably to describe the well-documented tendency for
pollution and waste dumps to be sited in poor and minority communities
who lack the political power to keep them out.
Environmental justice has been at the center of the debate over H.R.
629, legislation granting congressional consent to the so-called Texas
Compact. If passed unamended by this Congress, the Texas Compact would
result in the dumping of low-level radioactive waste from nuclear
reactors in Texas, Maine, and Vermont–and potentially from nuclear
reactors all over the country–in the poor and majority-Latino town of
Sierra Blanca in West Texas.
Environmental justice is an issue that demands the full attention of
the Senate. If we pass this legislation unamended, we can no loner
pretend to be innocent bystanders as one poor, minority community after
another is victimized by political powerlessness–and, in some cases,
by overt racism. We can no longer pretend that a remedy for this basic
violation of civil rights is beyond our reach. That is the ultimate
significance of this legislation–and of this debate.
The moral responsibility of the Senate is unavoidable and undeniable.
If we approve H.R. 629 without conditions, the Compact dump will be
built within a few miles of Sierra Blanca. There’s really very little
doubt about that. And if that happens, this poor Hispanic community
could become the premier national repository for so-called “low-
level” radioactive waste.
If we reject this Compact, on the other hand, the Sierra Blanca dump
will not be built at all. The Texas Governor has said so publicly–more
than once. It’s as simple as that. The fate of Sierra Blanca rests in
Compact supporters would prefer that we consider the Compact without
any reference to the actual location of the dump. But that simply
cannot be done. It’s true that H.R. 629 says nothing about Sierra
Blanca. But we know very well where this waste will be dumped. In that
respect, the Texas Compact is different from other compacts the Senate
The Texas legislature in 1991 already identified the area where the
dump will be located. The Texas Waste Authority designated the site
near Sierra Blanca in 1992. A draft license was issued in 1996. License
proceedings are now in their final stages and should be completed by
summer. Nobody doubts that the Texas authorities will soon issue that
There’s only one reason why this dump might not get built–and that’s
if Congress rejects the Texas Compact. In an April 1998 interview,
Texas Gov. George Bush said, “If that does not happen,” meaning
congressional passage of the Compact, “then all bets are off.” In the
El Paso Times of May 28, Gov. Bush said, “If there’s not a Compact in
place, we will not move forward.”
For these reasons, we cannot fairly consider H.R. 629 without also
considering the dump site that Texas has selected. Sierra Blanca is a
small town in one of poorest parts of Texas, an area with one of the
highest percentages of Latino residents. The average income of people
who live there is less than $8,000. Thirty-nine percent live below the
poverty line. Over 66 percent are Latino, and many of them speak only
It is a town that has already been saddled with one of the largest
sewage sludge projects in the world. Every week Sierra Blanca receives
250 tons of partially treated sewage sludge from across the country.
Depending on what action Congress decides to take, this small town with
minimal political clout may also become the national repository for
low-level radioactive waste. And I understand plans for building even
more dump sites are also in the works.
Supporters of the Compact would have us believe that the designation
of Sierra Blanca had nothing to do with the income or ethnic
characteristics of its residents. That it had nothing to do with the
high percentage of Latinos in Sierra Blanca and the surrounding
Hudspeth County–at least 2.6 times higher than the State average. That
the percentage of people living in poverty–at least 2.1 times higher
than the State average–was completely irrelevant.
They would have us believe that Sierra Blanca was simply the
unfortunate finalist in a rigorous and deliberate screening process
that fairly considered potential sites from all over the State. That
the outcome was based on science and objective criteria. I don’t
believe any of this is true.
I am not saying science played no role whatsoever in the process. It
did. Indeed, based on the initial criteria coupled with the scientific
findings, Sierra Blanca was disqualified as a potential dump site. It
wasn’t until politics entered the picture that Sierra Blanca was even
I think it is worth taking a moment to review how we got to where we
are today. The selection criteria for the dump were established in
1981, and the Texas Waste Authority hired engineering consultants to
screen the entire state for suitable sites.
In March 1985, consultants Dames & Moore delivered their report to
the Authority. Using “exclusionary” criteria established by the
Authority, Dames & Moore ruled out Sierra Blanca and the surrounding
area, due primarily to its complex geology.
Let me quote from that report. Features “applied as exclusionary as
related to the Authority’s Siting Criteria” included “the clearly
exclusionary features of: complex geology; tectonic fault zones,” et
cetera. “The application of exclusionary geological criteria has had a
substantial impact” in screening potential sites, the report observed.
In its final composite, the report explained, “Complex geology and
mountainous areas in West, West-Central, and the Panhandle of Texas
were excluded,” including the Sierra Blanca dump site.
The report also found, “Many tectonic faults occur in West Texas
within massive blocks of mountain ranges. This area includes El Paso
[and] Hudspeth” counties “and has undergone several phases or
episodes of tectonic disturbance.”
Finally, it went on to observe that, “Although not excluded, the
remainder of Hudspeth Country does not appear to offer good siting
So much for the science. Repeatedly since the early 1980s, the Waste
Authority has come back again and again to this politically powerless
area. It has designated four potential sites in all, and–with one
revealing exception–all of them were in Hudspeth County. There are
only three communities in the entire County, all of them poor and
heavily Latino, and all of them targeted by the Authority.
A 1984 public opinion survey commissioned by the Texas Waste
Authority provides some useful context for the Authority’s site
selection process. The report, called “An Analysis of Public Opinion
on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal in Selected Areas,” noted the
benefits of keeping Latinos uninformed.
The report states, “One population that may benefit from [a public
information] campaign is Hispanics, particularly those with little
formal education and low-incomes. The Authority should be aware,
however, that increasing the level of knowledge of Hispanics may simply
increase opposition to the [radioactive dump] site, inasmuch as we have
discovered a strong relationship in the total sample between increased
perceived knowledge and increased opposition.”
The first site to be targeted was Dell City in Hudspeth County. The
El Paso Herald-Post of March 6, 1984 recounts the controversy over that
site selection. “The [Texas Waste] Authority has set up certain
criteria as guidelines for choosing a disposal site. It appears
to be ignoring its own rules.” “The Authority, instead of abiding by
its written criteria, has set up an unspoken, alternate rule for
locating the site. That is, `The site shall be located where there are
the fewest possible number of registered voters to protest.'” A
disproportionately high number of Latinos in Hudspeth County are not
registered to vote.
The Herald-Post goes on to describe some of the political maneuvering
behind the initial selection of Hudspeth County. “The plot thickens.
The University of Texas system owns 500,000 acres of land around Dell
City. Mrs. Dolph Briscoe, wife of the former governor, sits on the
system’s Board of Regents. Briscoe has extensive land holdings close to
the other proposed site. So at a public meeting on October 25, 1983, in
Dimmit County, Briscoe said he was encouraging the Authority to locate
the site `on state lands in Hudspeth County.’ ” The editorialists at
the Herald-Post conclude, “We haven’t exactly got any heavyweights
defending our interests in this matter.”
The one exception to the Authority’s pattern of targeting the poor
Latino communities in Hudspeth County was in 1985, after completion of
the engineering consultants’ report. Dames & Moore concluded that the
“best” sites were in McMullen and Dimmit Counties, and the Waste
Authority settled on a site in McMullen County. But this decision met
with fierce opposition from politically powerful individuals. So the
Authority decided once again to move the dump back to Hudspeth County.
At this point all pretense of objectivity was abandoned. The
selection criteria were changed in 1985 so as to rule out the two
“best” sites identified by Dames & Moore. The new criteria gave
preference to sites located on state-owned land. This change had the
effect of virtually guaranteeing selection of a site somewhere in
Hudspeth County, large portions of which are owned by the state of
So the Waste Authority proceeded to designate, based on an informal
and cursory process, five sites in Hudspeth County. Its clear choice,
however, was Fort Hancock, one of the County’s three poor Latino
Unfortunately for the Authority, the more politically powerful city
of El Paso next door decided to fight back. Together with Hudspeth
County, El Paso filed suit against the site selection. They argued that
the Hancock site was located in an area of complex geology–much like
Sierra Blanca, incidentally–and lay on a 100-year flood plain. The
amazing thing is that they won. In 1991 U.S. District Court Judge Moody
ruled in their favor and ordered no dump could be built in Fort
Hancock, Hudspeth County.
But the county’s court victory was short-lived. The Waste Authority
was clearly not about to give up. The Authority went back to the state
legislature to get around Judge Moody’s decision by once again changing
the rules. A legislator from Houston, far to the East where the big
utilities are based, proposed a bill that ignored all previous
selection criteria and designated Fort Hancock once and for all.
Interestingly enough, this maneuver aroused a great deal of public
indignation, precisely because of the Authority’s perceived
discriminatory practice of dumping on Latino communities.
There was an impressive show of force against discrimination, but the
outcome was not exactly what Hudspeth County had in mind. After Judge
Moody’s remarkable decision, lawyers for El Paso and the Waste
Authority worked out a compromise. Fort Hancock would be saved, but a
400 square mile area further north in Hudspeth County would take its
place. This oblong rectangle imposed on the map–an area that included
Sierra Blanca–was subsequently dubbed “The Box.” The Texas
legislature passed the so-called “Box Law” by voice vote only days
before the end of session in May 1991.
Once again, the previous site selection procedures were stripped
away. The Box Law repealed the requirement that the dump had to be on
public land, the very requirement that has pointed the Authority
towards Hudspeth County in the first place. This was necessary because,
at that time, the Sierra Blanca site was not public land at all.
Most importantly, to prevent another troublesome lawsuit like the
Fort Hancock debacle, the Box Law essentially stripped local citizens
of the right to sue. It denied them all judicial relief other than an
injunction by the Texas Supreme Court itself, and for this unlikely
prospect citizens would be required to drive 500 miles to Austin.
This story is depressingly familiar. A similar scenario unfolds over
and over again in different parts of the country, with different names
and faces in every situation. Sometimes there is no intention by anyone
to discriminate. But pervasive inequalities of race, income, and access
to the levers of political power exercise a controlling influence over
the siting of undesirable waste dumps.
The people who make these decisions sometimes are only following the
path of least resistance, but in far too many instances the result is a
targeting of poor, politically marginalized minority communities who
lack the political muscle to do anything about it.
The remarkable thing about this story is that some people in Hudspeth
County did fight back. Dell City fought back and won in the early
1980s. Fort Hancock fought back and won their court case in 1991. And
make no mistake, the people of Sierra Blanca are fighting back, too.
Many of them have been here on the Hill. Father Ralph Solis, the
parish priest for Sierra Blanca and Hudspeth County, was here in
February, and visited many Senate offices. These people know that the
odds are stacked against them, but they are persevering just the same.
One of the amendments I included in this bill is intended to give
them a fighting chance. It gives them their day in court–the right to
challenge this site selection on grounds of environmental justice. It
says that the Compact cannot be implemented in any way–and that would
include the siting process, the licensing process, or the shipment of
waste to that site–that discriminates against communities because of
their race, national origin, or income level.
If local residents can prove discrimination in court, then they can
stop the Compact Commission from operating the dump. They don’t have to
prove intent, by the way, although that certainly would be sufficient.
All they have to show is disparate treatment or disparate impact.
I believe very strongly that the Compact raises important and
troubling issues of “environmental justice.” And a diverse array of
civic organizations agree with me about this.
The Leadership Council on Civil Rights, the Texas NAACP, the Sierra
Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens (or “LULAC”),
Greenpeace, the Bishop and the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, the House
Hispanic Caucus, the United Methodist Church General Board of Church
and Society, Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social
Responsibility, the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic
Justice, and the National Audubon Society, to name just a few, agree
with me. I ask unanimous consent that a letter signed by these and
other organizations be printed in the Record at the end of my
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See exhibit 1.)
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I know some of my colleagues don’t
believe issues of environmental justice are implicated here. Or they
may think this is not a question for the Senate to decide. I believe
this amendment meets those concerns. All my amendment does is give
local residents the right to make their case in court. There is no
guarantee they will win. After all, it is extremely difficult to prove
environmental discrimination. I don’t see how anyone would want to deny
these people a chance to make their case.
Short of defeating the bill outright, I believe passing this
amendment is the only way for us to do right by the people of Sierra
Yet, as amazing as it sounds, Compact proponents also claim to have
the best interests of Sierra Blanca at heart. They claim the Compact
will protect local residents because it keeps out waste from states
other than Maine and Vermont. They have used this argument again and
again, in Sierra Blanca, in the Texas legislature,
in the House of Representatives, and they’re using it again in the
United States Senate.
Supporters of the Compact are trying to have it both ways. When
challenged about the environmental justice of targeting Sierra Blanca,
they respond that no site has been selected, and environmental justice
can only be addressed if and when that ever happens.
Then in the same breath they insist that the dump in Sierra Blanca is
definitely going forward and the Compact is therefore necessary to
protect local residents from outside waste. So which is it? Either the
Sierra Blanca dump is a done deal or it’s not.
The truth is, the most likely scenario is that the dump will be built
in Sierra Blanca if Congress approves this Compact, subject to any
legal challenges, but the project will not go forward if Congress
rejects the Compact.
The claim that the Compact will protect Sierra Blanca makes no sense
on its face. The dump is unlikely to be built without congressional
consent to this Compact; it does not need to be built; and the Compact
would not protect Sierra Blanca in any event.
The simple fact of the matter is that the dump will most likely not
be if the Compact fails. Governor Bush has made it very clear that the
dump will not be built if Congress rejects the Compact. So the argument
that Sierra Blanca needs the Compact for protection against outside
waste is nonsensical. If Texas does not build a dump in Sierra Blanca,
local citizens do not need to be protected from anything. Far from
protecting Sierra Blanca, the Compact only ensures that a dump will be
built in their community.
An article from the Texas Observer of last March explains why the
Compact is necessary for the dump to go forward. “Texas generates
nowhere near enough waste on its own to fill a three million cubic feet
dump, and by its own projections [the Texas Waste Authority] could not
survive without Maine and Vermont’s waste.”
Moreover, the Texas legislature has indicated it will not appropriate
funding to build the dump if Congress rejects this Compact. Texas
lawmakers refused the Waste Authority’s request for $37 million for
construction money in FY 1998 and FY 1999. In fact, the Texas House
initially zeroed out all funding for the Authority, but funding for
licensing was later restored in conference committee. My understanding
is that construction funding was made contingent on passage of the
Compact, whereupon Maine and Vermont will each be required to pay Texas
over $25 million.
In fact, the Sierra Blanca dump does not really need to be built. You
might have seen the headline in the New York Times on December 7 of
last year: “Warning of Excess Capacity in Nation’s Nuclear Dumps–New
Technology and Recycling Sharply Reduce the Volume of Nuclear Waste.”
The article discusses a study by Dr. Gregory Hayden, the Nebraska
Commissioner for the Central Interstate Compact Commission. Dr. Hayden
found that “there is currently an excess capacity for low-level
radioactive waste disposal in the United States without any change to
current law or practice.”
He went on to explain, “These disposal sites have had low
utilization due to falling volumes since 1980. Thus, a high capacity
remains for the future, without any change to the current configuration
of which states may ship to which disposal site.” Let me repeat the
essential point: there is no compelling need for any new low-level
radioactive waste dumps in this country. And if no new dump is built,
nobody can argue that the Compact is needed to protect Sierra Blanca.
The most popular argument for building another dump involves disposal
of medical waste. I’m sure all of you have heard it. It’s claimed that
waste from medical facilities and research labs is getting backed up–
that it has to go somewhere.
But let me emphasize one central and indisputable fact: over the last
few years, over 99 percent of the waste from Maine and Vermont has come
from nuclear reactors. Less than one percent has been from hospitals
and universities. And from all three states, 94 percent of the low-
level waste between 1991 and 1994 came from reactors. This dump is
being built–first and foremost–to dispose of radioactive waste from
nuclear reactors, not from hospitals.
So why are the nuclear utilities hiding behind hospitals and
universities? It’s not very hard to figure out. In 1984 the Texas Waste
Authority hired a public relations firm to increase the popularity of
nuclear waste. The PR firm recommended, “A more positive view of safe
disposal technologies should be engendered by the use of medical
doctors and university faculty scientists as public spokesmen for the
[Texas Waste] Authority.” “Whenever possible,” the report said,
“the Authority should speak through these parties.”
Well, that advice has been followed to the letter. We all have
sympathies for hospital work and university research. I know I do. But
that’s beside the point. This controversy is really about waste from
If a dump is built nevertheless, the Compact offers little protection
for local residents. The Compact Commission would be able to accept
low-level radioactive waste from any person, state, regional body, or
group of states. All it would take is a majority vote of the
Commissioners, who are appointed by the Compact state governors.
Why should the people of Sierra Blanca expect unelected commissioners
to keep waste out of their community? Is there anything in their recent
experience that would justify such faith?
The fact is, the state will have every economic incentive to bring in
more waste. The November 1997 report by Dr. Hayden concluded that “the
small volume of waste available for any new site would not allow the
facility to take advantage of economies of scale. Thus, it would not
even be able to operate at the low-cost portion of its own cost
The new dump will need high volume to stay profitable. The Texas
Observer reports, “A 1994 analysis by the Houston Business Journal
suggests that the Authority would open the facility to other states to
keep it viable.”
We have here the potential for establishing a new national repository
for low-level nuclear waste. Not only will Texas have an incentive to
bring in as much waste as possible, but the same will be true of
nuclear utilities. The more waste goes to Sierra Blanca, the less they
will be charged for disposal.
Rick Jacobi, General Manager of the Texas Waste Authority, told the
Houston Business Journal: “The site is designed for 100,000 cubic feet
per year, which would be about $160 per cubic foot. But if only 60,000
cubic feet per year of waste arrives, the price would be $250 per cubic
foot.” That’s a big difference.
As Molly Ivins says, “That sure would drive up costs for Houston
Lighting and Power and Texas Utilities.” And the going rate at one
existing dump is a whopping $450 per cubic foot. In the end, it will be
in the economic interest of everyone–from the nuclear utilities to the
Waste Authority–to ship as much waste to Sierra Blanca as they can.
My second amendment addresses this problem. Throughout the process of
approving the Compact, supporters claimed the waste would be limited to
three states. I want to hold them to that promise. My amendment puts
that promise in writing.
I doubt anyone would disagree that this understanding was shared by
everyone who participated in the Compact debate. If Compact supporters
truly plan to limit waste to three states, which has been everyone’s
understanding all along, they can have no objection to my amendment.
It’s nothing but a protection clause. A nearly identical amendment–
called the Doggett Amendment–was attached to the bill passed by the
There are other issues I was not able to address with amendments. I
think there is a fundamental concern about whether this kind of
disposal is safe at all. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) warns
that, despite the hazards involved, waste will be buried in
soil trenches destined to leak, as have nuclear dumps in Kentucky,
Illinois; and Nevada.
LCV did score the House vote on final passage,
and has announced that it may score Senate votes as well. I ask
unanimous consent to place the LCV letter in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
League of Conservation Voters,
Washington, DC, March 12, 1998.
Re oppose the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Consent Act.
The League of Conservation Voters is the
bipartisan, political arm of the national environmental
movement. Each year, LCV publishes the National Environmental
Scorecard, which details the voting records of members of
Congress on environmental legislation. The Scorecard is
distributed to LCV members, concerned voters nationwide and
Soon the Senate may be voting on S. 270, The Texas Low-
Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Consent Act. LCV
urges you to vote against this bill, which is the key to
opening a new nuclear dump near Sierra Blanca, Hudspeth
More than 99% of the radioactive waste shipped from Maine
and Vermont in recent years was generated by nuclear
reactors. Despite the misleading classification of “low-
level,” many of these wastes are highly concentrated and
some can give a lethal dose in about five minutes. Atomic
power plant waste in this category includes long-lived
elements like plutonium-239, which remains hazardous for
240,000 years, and cesium-135, which remains hazardous for 20
Despite its hazards, the waste would be buried in Texas in
unlined soil trenches destined to leak, as nuclear waste
dumps in Kentucky, Illinois and Nevada have. A survey of 27
other nations with radioactive waste programs found that not
one of these nations allows shallow land burial of such long-
lasting nuclear materials.
The selection of a poor Mexican-American community (which
is already the site of one of the largest sewage sludge
projects in the U.S.) has caused local environmentalists to
file a civil rights complaint against the Texas. Maine and
Vermont radioactive waste agencies. Furthermore, dumping
radioactive waste near Sierra Blanca, approximately 16 miles
from the Rio Grande River, would violate the 1983 La Paz
agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, which commits both
countries to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution
affecting the border area.
LCV’s Political Advisory Committee will consider including
votes on S. 270 in compiling LCV’s 1998 Scorecard. Thank you
for your consideration of this issue. If you need more
information please call Betsy Loyless in my office at 202/
Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, there is also an obvious concern about
the unsuitability of Sierra Blanca’s geology–the exclusionary
criterion from the 1985 Dames & Moore report. Sierra Blanca is situated
right in the middle of the state’s only earthquake zone. Its 1993
license application stated that this is “the most tectonically active
area within the state of Texas.” In April 1995 there was a 5.6
earthquake 100 miles away, in Alpine, Texas. And there have been two
tremors in the area in the last four years.
Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA) of New York has
conducted an independent investigation of the dump site and found its
geology unsuitable for disposal of radioactive waste. RWMA notes that
research by the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal
Authority has found that [there is] a fault in the bedrock
buried beneath the Sierra Blanca site. Groups of earth
fissures up to seven feet deep occur nearby.
RWMA concludes that
some important natural features of the site–its seismic
hazard, its buried fault, and nearby earth fissures–are not
suited to radioactive waste isolation. In our professional
opinion, these are fatal flaws which mean that the proposed
Sierra Blanca site cannot provide a high degree of assurance
of waste containment.
I ask unanimous consent to enter the letter from RWMA into the
The concern about the environmental impact of this dump extends well
beyond the border. The Mexican equivalent of the EPA announced its
opposition on March 5 on grounds that the Sierra Blanca dump poses an
environmental risk to the border region. On February 11, the Mexican
Congress, represented by its Permanent Commission, declared
that the project in Sierra Blanca in Texas, and all such
dumping projects along the border with Mexico, constitute an
aggression against national dignity.
Moreover, the project apparently violates the 1983 La Paz Agreement
between Mexico and the US, which commits both countries to prevent
pollution affecting the border area. I ask unanimous consent to enter
these statements by Mexican authorities into the Record.
The environmental justice amendments I proposed have been endorsed by
several newspapers and civic organizations. The Fort Worth Star-
Telegram of May 1, 1998 reads,
The amendment to the Texas/Maine/Vermont Compact by
Minnesotan Sen. Paul Wellstone is a good one. Too often in
our country’s industrialized history, poor, politically
powerless minority communities have been targeted for
unwanted hazardous waste dumps. . . . The Wellstone amendment
needs to stay in the final version of the bill.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights wrote to likely conferees
on May 14, 1998,
The Senate-passed bill contains two amendments sponsored by
Sen. Paul Wellstone that we urge the conferees to include in
any final conference report.
The Leadership Conference states that
a matter of increasing concern to the civil rights community
[is] the disparate treatment of poor and minority communities
regarding environmental siting issues, also known as
In recent years, our nation has gained a better
understanding of the national pattern of discrimination in
the placement of waste and pollution sites in
disproportionately poor and minority communities.
By the end of their letter, the Leadership Conference “strongly urge
the inclusion of the Wellstone/Doggett amendments in any final bill
approved by Congress.”
The [United] Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society wrote on
April 30, 1998, “We applaud and support these [Wellstone] amendments.
They are a small victory for the victims of environmental racism.”
The Sierra Club wrote on June 4, 1998, “Sen. Paul Wellstone has
introduced two amendments that would improve the bill,” though the
Sierra Club believes the bill remains deeply flawed. I ask unanimous
consent that all these statements be placed in the Record.
Not everyone has been so supportive, of course. I think it would be
appropriate for me to respond to some of the arguments that have been
raised against my amendments.
First, it’s been suggested that passage of my amendments would
require states to reratify the Compact. Second, a recurring theme
echoed by Compact supporters is that Congress has never before attached
these kinds of conditions to a state compact. Third, Senators from
Compact states have suggested that no environmental discrimination
could possibly have occurred in this case because residents of Sierra
Blanca actually support the dump. Finally, it has also been claimed
that the Compact is a state or local matter, in which people from other
states have no business interfering.
As a preliminary matter, I question the relevance of these
arguments–at least with respect to the Wellstone/Doggett amendment.
This question has already been settled. Both the House and Senate have
agreed to limit waste to the three Compact states. There really is very
little for the conference committee to decide. I do not understand why
we are even having this discussion at this stage in the process.
Nevertheless, I do want to respond to some of these arguments
individually. First: the reratification argument. I believe there may
be some confusion as to what my amendments actually do. As the House
parliamentarian found with respect to the Doggett amendment, these
amendments do not actually alter the Compact itself. Instead, they
impose conditions on the consent of Congress.
The Compact, for constitutional reasons, cannot go into effect
without that consent. And Congress has already conditioned its consent
on certain other requirements. My two amendments simply add to that
list of congressional conditions.
With regard to the Wellstone/Doggett limitation, there’s no reason
why this amendment should require reratification. When the Compact made
its way through the legislative process the first time, everybody
understood that waste would be limited to the three states. My
amendment only reaffirms the common understanding of everyone involved.
Why should states be required to reaffirm a principle to which they
have already given their consent?
I’m not sure this conclusion is really so controversial–even within
the Compact states themselves. I have in my hands an internal
memorandum from Roger Mulder of the State Energy Conservation Office of
the Texas General Services Commission. Mr. Mulder was an environmental
aide to Gov. Richards and handled Compact issues in the Richards
Administration. His memo is addressed to John Howard, an environmental
adviser to Governor Bush. It is
dated October 10, 1997, just days after passage of the Doggett
amendment in the House.
The first line of the memo reads, “There appears to be a unanimous
agreement that the Doggett amendment does not require the Texas Compact
to be returned to the state legislatures.” “Unanimous agreement.”
That’s not just the view of Mr. Mulder. According to his memo, that
view is universally held.
The Mulder memo goes on to note that “Maine appears to be leading
the charge in the effort to drop the Doggett amendment.” The reason?
“There is speculation that Maine believes it can send its
decommissioned waste to Barnwell, South Carolina,” get credit for the
waste it otherwise would have sent to Texas, and “then sell that
credit at a substantial profit for Maine.” That’s what Mr. Mulder’s
memo says, at least.
Nevertheless, I have been willing–and remain willing–to allay any
legitimate concerns Compact supporters may have about the need for
reratification. I offered to instruct conferees to put Congress on
record–in the statement of managers–that no reratification is
required. My offer was rejected.
The second argument advanced by Compact supporters is that no
previous Compact has received such shabby treatment at the hands of
Congress. Even if Congress had never before attached these kinds of
conditions, that would say nothing about how Congress should treat THIS
Compact. Why should we be bound by what prior Congresses have done?
And besides, this Compact is different from previous ones. We know in
advance where the Texas dump will be located. And this particular site
selection raises important questions of environmental justice.
Third, Compact supporters go so far as to claim that local residents
actually support the Compact, and therefore no discrimination could
have been involved in the site selection. Even if it were true that the
dump enjoyed local support, I don’t see what this has to do with site
But more importantly, my argument that local residents should have a
chance to challenge the dump site does not depend–one way or the
other–on whether the proposed Compact dump is popular in Hudspeth
County. I am simply saying that there should be some forum to resolve
the claims of environmental discrimination that have been raised. I
cannot say for certain what the outcome of such a challenge would be.
But local residents should at least have a chance to make their case.
In any event, the argument that local residents support the dump is
simply not true. I am surprised to hear it being made. Local
congressmen of both parties seem to agree on this point. The Republican
congressman who represents Hudspeth County, Henry Bonilla, wrote to the
Senate on March 13, 1998: “My constituents adamantly oppose this
In a letter to senators dated February 2, Democratic Congressmen
Doggett, Reyes, and Rodriguez wrote,
The [House] bill passed despite overwhelming opposition by
the residents in Hudspeth County, Presidio County, Jeff Davis
County, Culberson County, Val Verde County, Reeves County,
Webb County, Brewster County, the cities of Sierra Blanca,
Del Rio, Brackettville, Marfa, Van Horn, and Alpine, and the
governor of the neighboring state of Chihuahua.
In fact, 22 of the surrounding counties have passed resolutions
opposing the dump, as have 11 nearby cities. No city or county, to my
knowledge, has passed a resolution in favor.
Jeff Davis County did pass a resolution of support while under the
impression that the Compact would keep waste out of Texas. When
informed that the Compact would do no such thing, they reversed their
vote almost immediately. Compact lobbyists nevertheless continue to
cite the first resolution.
The only poll ever taken in Hudspeth County showed massive opposition
to the dump. In 1992 the Texas Waste Authority commissioned K
Associates of El Paso to conduct a telephone poll. That poll found 64
percent of Hudspeth and Culberson County residents opposed the dump.
Opposition was surely even stronger than that, since poor residents
without telephones were greatly underrepresented in the survey. Only 33
percent of respondents to this poll were Hispanic, while Hispanics
account for 66 percent of the local population. As a general
proposition, I understand that the dump is much more unpopular with the
Latino majority than with the white minority.
I don’t know anyone who has ever attended a local meeting over the
dump could have any doubts about how local residents feel. Over 700
county residents showed up at a public hearing on April 21, 1992. While
90 people spoke, only two supported the dump. At another public hearing
in August 1996, over 80 percent of those attending spoke out against
Local opponents of the dump have collected an overwhelming number of
signatures in opposition. Over 800 local residents, all of them adults,
have signed petitions opposing the dump. These include two out of four
commissioners on the County Commissioner’s Court–Wayne West and Curtis
Carr. (A third commissioner–Jim Kiehne–has publicly stated his
My understanding is that dump supporters have only managed to collect
around 30 to 40 names. Many who signed the petitions in support of the
dump later said they were confused; the petition claimed to be
protecting Sierra Blanca from outside waste. Some of them have also
signed petitions opposing the dump.
I think the most reliable testimony about local opposition to the
dump comes from Father Ralph Solis, the Catholic parish priest for
Sierra Blanca and Hudspeth County. He visited Washington in February to
let Senators know how much his parishioners oppose their dump:
Before leaving for Washington D.C., the people of the
parish said to me, “Please, father, make them understand
that we do not want radioactive nuclear waste.” All of us in
far west Texas implore the Senate to take a good look at us
and realize that we are real people in danger and without any
real voice. . . . We beg the Senate to stand with us as like
our sisters and brothers from other faiths and Christian
denominations from across the country. I am here with this
group from West Texas, a few small voices trying to speak for
so many. Please, we beg you, do not abandon us.
Citizens across the state seem to feel the same way. In a state wide
poll conducted in October 1994, 82 percent of Texans opposed “the
proposal to store out-of-state radioactive materials in Texas near
Sierra Blanca.” Only 13 percent favored the proposal.
Senators from Compact states have touted the views of two local
figures as proof of Sierra Blanca’s support for the dump. One of these
individuals is a banker who heads the local economic development
commission, which is funded by the Texas Waste Authority. My
understanding is that he is a resident of Santa Teresita, not of Sierra
Blanca. He developed a connection to Sierra Blanca in 1994 when he
became president of the local bank.
The other local figure is Judge James Peace, the County Judge who
presides over the County Commissioners’ Court. Both Judge Peace and
other Compact supporters have claimed his reelection in March of this
year, with 54 percent of the vote, is proof that local voters support
the Compact. But can anyone honestly claim that the dump was an issue
in his reelection campaign, or that local residents were aware of his
position on the dump?
An editorial in the Hudspeth County Herald of April 17, 1998,
addresses Judge Peace’s claims. It says that the March elections were
not a referendum on the dump, and that many other issues were involved.
“In no way, Judge Peace, was the dump implied in the last election.”
More importantly, it says, “Your letter states that you have always
been a vocal supporter of the dump . . . which is not true. Do you
remember your first campaign? You told the folks when you sat in their
living rooms that you were opposed to the dump.”
Judge Peace recently traveled to Washington and met with me in my
office. He is a very nice man, and I very much enjoyed our meeting.
Indeed, Judge Peace told me directly to my face that he supports the
Wellstone/Doggett amendment. He later wrote me a letter reversing
his position. I can see why local residents might be a little confused
about where he stands.
Finally, it is argued that the Compact is a matter for the three
states to decide, that selection of the dump site is Texas’ business,
and that outsiders should mind their own business. More specifically, I
have been asked why, as
a senator from Minnesota, I should have such a deep and abiding
interest in this matter.
The simple answer is that, if this were only a matter for the three
states to decide, H.R. 629 would not be before the Senate. The Compact
cannot go into effect without the consent of Congress. And the dump
will not go forward without the Compact.
The decision whether to build this dump depends on how we decide to
proceed on this bill. That’s what it boils down to. It is quite obvious
to me that we cannot avoid responsibility for our votes and our actions
in this matter.
My driving concern has always been very simple. I cannot stand by and
watch while a poor, politically powerless, Latino community is targeted
to become the premier repository of low-level nuclear waste for the
entire country. Much less give it my blessing. Not when I have the
power to do something about it.
As a very basic proposition, I think we can all agree that it’s wrong
for poor, politically powerless, minority communities to be singled out
for the siting of unwanted hazardous waste dumps. It’s wrong when that
happens in Sierra Blanca, and it’s wrong when it happens in hundreds of
other poor minority communities all across this country.
I want to do whatever I can to stop it, and I don’t see why every one
of us should not want to do the same. I don’t understand why it should
be considered unusual for a senator to care about these things. On the
contrary, I think it should be unusual for a senator not to care about
The broader point is that environmental justice is not just a local
issue, but a national one. There are some issues of fundamental justice
that rise to a level of national importance, and this is surely one of
I think it’s high time for the Senate to just say “no.” Not just to
the Sierra Blanca dump, but to a national pattern of discrimination in
the location of waste and pollution. We have to face up to these urgent
issues of environmental justice–sooner rather than later.
The primary reason I came to the floor today was to draw my
colleagues’ attention to the pressing issue of environmental justice.
But I had another motive as well. I wanted to explain the history of
the debate over this bill.
I wanted to make sure there is no confusion over what agreements have
been made, how the Senate amendments would work, what the mandate of
the conference committee is, and what we can expect if the conference
violates that mandate.
Let us step back for a moment and review how we got to where we are
today. Over the past year I expressed vehement opposition to any
Compact legislation that did not address the issue of environmental
justice. I offered my two amendments in an effort to do just that. The
resulting standoff prevented this bill from coming to floor for almost
Finally, about three months ago, senators from Compact states agreed
to include my two amendments. On April 1 of this year, the Senate
unanimously approved them both.
Unfortunately, however, after agreeing to my amendments, senators
from Compact states suggested publicly that the amendments should be
stripped in conference committee. So as a condition of going to
conference, I insisted that conferees be instructed to keep the
amendments in any bill reported back to the Senate.
Let me, since I will have time to talk more about this and I want to
accommodate my colleague, talk about one other amendment that we have
also attached to this piece of legislation.
This amendment, Mr. President, essentially says, if colleagues are
going to say that there should only be radioactive waste from Maine and
Vermont, if that is what the Texas legislature intended, then we should
make it clear when we pass this compact that that will be the case.
This was the Doggett amendment in the House of Representatives which
passed the House, and this was also a part of an amendment that has
passed the Senate as well.
Let me just kind of be clear about what this unanimous consent says.
We are now instructing the conference committee that they are to
support these two amendments, which the Senate has now gone on record
supporting. All of my colleagues are on record, because the Senate has
voted to support these two amendments, that the people at least should
have a chance to go to court. And, if they can prove discrimination,
they ought to be able to make their case.
They ought to at least be able to make that appeal. And secondly, if
we are saying that this waste is only going to come from Maine and
Vermont because the people in Sierra Blanca and people of Texas are
worried this will become a national repository site for nuclear waste,
then we make it clear in the amendments that, indeed, will be the case.
Now, Mr. President, in conclusion, although I will have more to say
all week about this, Senators from the compact States were first
reluctant to give those instructions. Their objections have delayed the
conference for the last month. Then last week–and I am glad they did
so–they withdrew their objections and agreed to insist on the
Wellstone amendments. It was this agreement that will allow H.R. 629 to
go to conference.
In other words, I will keep my word all the way through. I said I was
just trying to get these amendments onto the bill because I think these
amendments would lead to much more fairness and much more justice for
the people in Sierra Blanca.
Well, now we are about to go to conference and I only want to
emphasize one point. The Senate has now agreed unanimously, including
Senators from the compact States, to instruct conferees on the
Wellstone amendments. Conferees should not report back to the Senate
any bill that has been stripped, where the amendments have been taken
out. Without those environmental justice amendments, there should be no
bill. If there is a compact which is approved without the people in
Sierra Blanca having the right to challenge this in court, if they can
show discrimination, and without the assurance that this waste will
only come from Vermont and Maine, then this will be an injustice and
the Senate should not let that happen. Any attempt to strip these
amendments from the bill, which is what the nuclear utilities would
like conferees to do, would make a mockery of the House and Senate
votes to include the Wellstone and the Doggett language. It would make
a mockery of Senate instructions and would make a mockery of our
professed concern for environmental justice.
When the House and Senate have both decided to include these
amendments, the conference committee really has no business trying to
strip them out. I think that would be the kind of backroom deal that
makes Americans disgusted with politics. That would be the legislative
process at its worst–serving the interests of the nuclear utilities
over interests of people who lack comparable access to the levers of
If that happens, Mr. President, not only would Congress be denying a
remedy for environmental discrimination, not only would Congress be
giving a green light to the Sierra Blanca dump, not only would Congress
be giving a seal of approval to the targeting of a poor majority-Latino
community for disposal of radioactive waste, if the conference
committee proceeded to drop these amendments, they would provide a
striking example of unequal access to political power here in
Washington that produces environmental discrimination in the first
The issue of environmental justice deserves better than that. The
people of Sierra Blanca deserve better than that. And the American
people have a right to expect a higher level of conduct from their
elected representatives. I will take advantage of every procedural
means at my disposal to make sure that does not happen.
Mr. President, to accommodate my colleague’s schedule, the Presiding
Officer, I conclude my remarks and yield the floor.
EXHIBIT NO. 1
Sierra Club, League of United Latin American Citizens
(LULAC), Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR),
National Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth, U.S.
Public Interest Research Group, Public Citizen,
Greenpeace, Greenpeace Mexico, Catholic Diocese of El
Paso, Save Sierra Blanca, and 109 National,
International, Regional, Statewide and Local
March 11, 1998.
Senator Paul D. Wellstone,
Dear Senator Wellstone: We ask that you vote against S.
270, the “Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact
Consent Act” because it:
Approves of what appears to be environmental racism that
resulted in selecting a poor \1\ Mexican American community
\2\ which does not want the dump \3\ and is already the
location of one of the largest sewage sludge projects in the
country.\4\ It is one of numerous proposed radioactive and
hazardous facilities along the Mexican border.
Footnotes at end of letter.
Although the Compact does not expressly designate Hudspeth
County, the Faskin Ranch near Sierra Blanca clearly has been
chosen and a draft license approved. The decision Congress
now faces on Compact approval cannot be made in a vacuum,
ignoring serious environmental justice questions that have
been raised about the site selection process. Congressional
approval would make challenging the unjust procedures that
have been carried out, in apparent contradiction of the 1994
Executive Order on environmental justice, more difficult
because more out-of-state money, pressure and legal
commitments will come to bear.
We caution Congress not to be complicit in what has become,
whether intentional or not, a repulsive trend in this country
of siting the most hazardous and undesirable facilities in
poor communities with high percentages of people of color.
Texas is second only to California, another proposed
radioactive dump state, in the number of commercial hazardous
waste facilities located in communities with above-national-
average percent people of color.\5\
Deals with intensely radioactive materials which, despite
their classification as “low-level,” are not low risk and
include all the same elements as high-level waste from
nuclear power and weapons. Nationally, nuclear power waste
comprises the vast majority and medical waste consistently
comprises less than one tenth of a percent of the
radioactivity in so-called “low-level” waste.\6\ For Main
and Vermont, 99.5% to 100% is from nuclear reactors \7\ and
lasts for centuries. In contrast, medical treatment and
diagnosis wastes characteristically have tiny amounts of
relatively low-concentrations of radioactivity with very
short hazardous lives.\8\ Options other than burial with
reactor waste are technically viable and need exploration.
Potentially threatens the Rio Grande by permitting burial
of long-lasting (hundreds to millions of years hazardous
\9\), highly concentrated wastes (some can give a lethal dose
in about 5 minutes \10\) in soil trenches destined to leak
\11\ and requiring only 100 years of institutional
According to the 1993 license application for the Sierra
Blanca site, it is part of “the most tectonically active
area within the State of Texas.” The atomic waste is
proposed to be buried directly above a fault. This presents
an unacceptable risk from earthquakes.
Violates the 1983 La Paz Agreement with Mexico in which
both countries agreed to cooperate to “. . . prevent, reduce
and eliminate sources of pollution . . . which affect the
border area . . .” The site, approximately 16 miles from the
Rio Grande, is well within the “border area” (63 miles on
each side of the border).
Opens the door to waste from all over the country, despite
claims to the contrary. The Compact has numerous provisions
\13\ for importing radioactive waste from more generators
than those in Maine, Vermont and Texas. The Compact
Commission (governors’ appointees from Texas, Maine, Vermont
and any future party states) will have the power, without
legislative or local approval, to enter into agreements to
take waste from out of compact.\14\ With a majority vote of
the Compact Commission and the Texas legislature, other
states may become party states. So, to claim that the Compact
protects from other states dumping is misleading and false.
Has numerous loopholes in the provisions that are touted to
limit out-of-compact waste volume to 20% of the amount Texas
dumps. This is misleading because it is the amount of
radioactivity that is of concern. There is no limit on the
amount of radioactivity that can be imported into the
proposed Texas dump. Wastes imported from non-party states
via agreements are not subject to the 20% limit. The limit is
only an estimate based on a 50-year projection and it can be
changed.\15\ It does not apply to wastes brought in for
“processing.” A major radioactive waste processor has
entered into an option agreement \16\ to lease property
neighboring the proposed dump, thus indicating another avenue
for unlimited volumes of radioactive waste going to Hudspeth
Appears to violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
passed by Congress to prevent discriminatory activities and
prohibiting use of federal money for programs that
Will result in thousands of miles of unnecessary
transportation of dangerous radioactive materials including
plutonium, cesium, and strontium from atomic power plants.
Wastes will be trucked from Maine, Vermont, east Texas and,
very likely, other locations, to the border area.
For these reasons, we urge that you give S. 270 close
scrutiny and a “No” vote.
For further information (including contact information on
the following signers) please contact Diane D’Arrigo at
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (202) 328-0002 (ext
Signers Opposing S. 270, The Texas Compact and Sierra
Blanca Nuclear Waste Dump:
ACES/Hudspeth Directive for Conservation, Alliance for
Survival, Americans for a Safe Future (CA), Arizona Safe
Energy Coalition, Asociacion Mexicana de Estudios para la
Defensa del Consumidor, Asociation Ecologica Santo Tomas,
Audubon Council of TX, AWARE, Andrews, TX, Blue Ridge
Environmental Defense League, Border Coalition Against
Radiation Dumping, Border Environmental Network, California
Communities Against Toxics, Catholic Diocese of El Paso,
Center for Environmental Health, Citizen Alert (NV), Citizen
Action Coalition of Indiana, Citizens Awareness Network (New
England), Citizens Protecting Ohio, Citizens at Risk: Cape
Cod (MA), Citizens Energy Coalition (NJ), Coalition for
Nuclear Power Postponement (DE), Comite de Derechos Humanos
de Tabasco, Committee for a Safe Energy Future (ME),
Communities Helping Oppose Radioactive Dumping (NJ),
Connecticut Opposed to Waste, Consejo Ecologico de Mazatlan,
Conservation Council of North Carolina, Crescere, Desert
Citizens Against Pollution, and Donald Judd Foundation (TX).
Earth Day Coalition (OH), Earth Island Institute,
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, EarthWINS (WI),
Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power (PA), Fort Davis TX
Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Earth, GE Stockholders
Alliance, Global Resource Action, Grandmothers for Peace
Internat’l., Greenpeace, Greenpeace Mexico, Grupo De Los
Cien, Grupos de Estudios Ambientales, Hightower Radio,
Hoosier Env’tal Council (IN), HOPE (NE), Houston Audubon
Society, Indigenous Environmental Network (AK), Indigenous
Environmental Network, Internatl’l Env’tal Alliance of the
Bravo, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC),
Madres de East Los Angeles, Marfa TX Chamber of Commerce,
Mennonite Central Committee, Wash. Office, Missouri
Coalition for the Environment, and Movimiento Alterno para
la Recuperacion de los Ecosistmas.
Nat’l Env’tal Coalition of Native Americans, National
Audubon Society, NC WARN, NC Ground Zero, New England
Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, Nuclear Guardianship Project,
Nuclear Waste Citizens Coalition, Nuclear Information &
Resource Service, Oilwatch Mexico, Oyster Creek (NJ) Nuclear
Watch, Peace Farm, Amarillo, People Organized to Stop Toxics,
Dallas, People for Community Recovery (IL), Physicians for
Life, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Plutonium Free
Future, Prairie Island Coalition (MN), Prairie Alliance (IL),
Presbyterian Church USA, Wash. Office, Presidio County TX
Attorney, Public Citizen, and Public Citizen Texas.
Radioactive Waste Management Associates, Rio Grande
Restoration (NM), Safe Energy Communication Council, Save
Sierra Blanca, Save Ward Valley, Shundahai Network, Sierra
Club, Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund, SMART (Mothers
Against Radioactive Transport), South West Organizing
Project, Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and
Social Justice, Southwest Network for Environmental and
Economic Justice, Southwest Public Workers Union, Serious
Texans Against Nuclear Dumping (STAND), Students for Earth
Awareness, Texans United, The Greens/Green Party USA, and
Three Mile Island Alert.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, Union de Grupos Ambientalistas de
Mexico, United Methodist General Board of Church & Society,
Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Yggdrasil Institute
(US/France), ZHABA, Water Information Network, West Texas
Catholic Ministries, Westchester Peoples Action Coalition,
and Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom.
\1\ 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Hudspeth County,
Texas, pg. 1. Per capita income $7,994.
\2\ Neighbor, Howard D. “Low-Level Radioactive Dumpsiting in
West Texas: Another Example of Texas Racism?” University of
Texas at El Paso, delivery at WSSA/ABS, January 22, 1994,
p.6: “65% of Hudspeth County population is Mexican
\3\ Telephone survey prepared for Texas Low Level Radioactive
Waste Disposal Authority by K Associates, El Paso, TX,
\4\ Salopek, Paul and David Sheppard, El Paso Texas,
“Desert-bound Waste: Poison or Promise?” June 14, 1992,
“It will be the nation’s largest effort to artificially
fertilize desert rangeland with human waste.” MERCO Joint
Venture, an Oklahoma based waste handler is land spreading NY
City sewage sludge in the same area as the proposed atomic
\5\ Goldman, Benjamin A. and Laura Fitton, “Toxic Wastes and
Race Revisited,” Center for Policy Alternatives, NAACP and
United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, 1994,
\6\ DOE annual State-by-State Assessments of LLRW Shipped to
and Received at Commercial Disposal Sites 1985-1995.
\7\ State-by-State Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Wastes
Received at Commercial Disposal Sites, DOE/LLW-181 (1993),
DOE/LLW-152 (1992) DOE/LLW-132 (1991), DOE/LLW-224 (1994),
\8\ Hamilton, Minard, “Radioactive Waste: The Medical
Factor,” Nuclear Information and Resource Service, January
\9\ The hazardous life of a radioactive material is generally
10 to 20 half-lives, the time it takes to decay to a
thousandth to a millionth of the original amount. The
radioactive waste from atomic power plants that would go to
Sierra Blanca includes plutonium-239 hazardous for 240,000 to
480,000 years, iodine-129 hazardous for 170 to 340 million
years, cesium-135 hazardous for 20 to 40 million years,
cesium-137 hazardous for 300 to 600 years, nickel 59
hazardous for 800,000 to 1.6 million years.
\10\ Cesium-137 can be present in “low-level” radioactive
waste up to 4600 curies per cubic meter (NRC 10 CFR 61.55
“Waste Classification.”), and that amount can deliver a
lethal dose in approximately 5 minutes.
\11\ Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations 10 CFR
61.41 “Protection of the General Public from releases of
radioactivity” allows “[c]oncentrations of radioactive
material [to be] . . . released to the general environment in
ground water, surface water, air, soil, plants or animals”
that results in doses up to 25 millirems/year to whole body
and any organ but the thyroid which can receive 75 millirems/
year. “Millirems are an expression of biological damage to
tissue from ionizing radiation and not directly measurable.
Such a standard is unenforceable, relying upon unverified
computer modeling to predict, no guarantee, compliance.
\12\ NRC regulations 10 CFR 61.59(b) NRC “Institutional
control. . . . institutional controls may not be relied upon
for more than 100 years . . .”
\13\ HR 629/S.270: Section 2.01(13) Texas, Maine and Vermont
are only the “initial” party states; Section 3.05(6)
Authority to “[e]nter into an agreement with any person,
state, regional body, or group of states for the importation
of low-level radioactive waste into the compact for
management or disposal . . .;” Section 7.01 “Any other
state may be made eligible for party status . . .”
\14\ HR 629/S.270: Section 3.05(6).
\15\ HR 629/S.270: Section 7.09. The compact expressly
provides for contracting and compacting with more states.
\16\ “Option Agreement,” The Scientific Ecology Group, Inc.
and Cynthia Hoover, March 7, 1994.
\17\ Carman, Neil J., Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, “Civil
Rights and Environmental Justice Executive Order
applicability to proposed Low-Level Radioactive Waste Dump
near Sierra Blanca, Texas” letter, June 24, 1994.