For a Few Days, At Least, An Austin Judge Delays Vote on Harold Simmons's License to Bury 36 States' Nuclear Waste in West Texas

Categories: The Environment
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Annette and Harold Simmons
For those following along, it seemed all but inevitable that Gov. Rick Perry's appointees to the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission would sign off next Tuesday on Harold Simmons's license application to bury 36 states' nuclear waste out in West Texas. The commission -- consisting of six Perry appointees and two from Vermont, for now the only other state besides Texas with the OK to bury its nuke waste out in Andrews -- was all for the proposal and pushing it through as fast as it could. It was the least it could do on behalf of the Dallas billionaire, who paid good money to the guv for that rush fee.

But for the moment, at least, it would appear Tuesday's rubber-stamping has been delayed: Late yesterday morning down in Austin, a group of environmentalists asked for a temporary restraining order -- which State District Judge Jon Wisser signed off on. Problem was, nobody from the commission was present to make its case, and the Office of the Texas Attorney General stepped in late yesterday to ask for a do-over, which the judge will hear Monday -- about 24 hours before the commission's scheduled to take its vote.

But even a slight delay could help environmentalists trying to fend off WCS: Incoming Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, is opposed to opening up the West Texas site to other comers -- for the most part, because he's worried that letting WCS bury other states' nuclear waste will make it hard for him to ditch the radioactive remnants of Vermont's only nuclear reactor, Vermont Yankee, which he's looking to shutter. But Shumlin doesn't take office till Thursday, so if the vote is delayed by even a few days, perhaps he can swap Vermont's current appointees for those opposed to the WCS license.

Public Citizen, of course, is thrilled ... for now, at least. Says attorney Charles Herring, the commission "shouldn't be able to violate seven laws just to pay a political favor to somebody, with the result being we're going to degrade the environment and threaten the folks with radioactive waste." To which a spokesman for Waste Control Specialists says, Whatever: "It is disappointing that after two years of public input and hours of public testimony, we've come to this last-ditch attempt to derail what has been a very thorough and open process. I think they're merely trying to buy a couple days' delay."

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