Static: Wednesday, September 17, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Austin’s Real Stinkin’ Mess

While the mainstream media fight for front-row seats for the third act of Tom DeLay’s farce playing in Austin’s Theatre of the Absurd, real-world, life-and-death issues are being played out in the capital’s back rooms with few cameras or reporter’s notebooks in sight. “The really obscene thing about these special sessions is not just what they cost in money,” State Rep. Lon Burnam told Static, “it’s what they are costing in media coverage. Important state business is going unreported.”

This week, for example, sages from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality met in open session to write the rules that will govern the operation of a nuclear waste dump that may soon be opening in Andrews County, thanks to the Texas Lege, which passed a bill to authorize such a facility during its first silly session. A few hardy souls showed up Tuesday to urge the commission to add to the rules the safeguards that legislators stripped from the bill itself, including security standards for transportation of the waste on its way to the dump and at the site to protect against terrorist attacks or theft. Joining Burnam — who has fought the dump since the idea first reared its ugly head a decade or so ago — in his worries about the dump are members of a recently formed coalition called the Texas Radioactive Waste Defense Fund, which includes the Texas League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and the Lone Star Sierra Club,

Once upon a time this dump idea was sold to Texans with the promise that the state would be dealing only with low-level nuclear wastes from power plants and medical facilities in Texas, Vermont, and Connecticut. That was bad enough, since “low-level” is a misnomer. The wastes from nuclear power plants are mixed with long-lived isotopes such as plutonium that can be just as dangerous as their high-level brothers. But a funny thing happened on the way to TECQ, Burnam said. The rules the environmental agency is considering would allow waste from all over the country to find a permanent home here, Burnam said. “Texas could become the nuclear dumping ground for the Western Hemisphere.” Even the Houston Post has weighed in on the side of the environmentalists on this one, editorializing that if TECQ falls short of its responsibility to safeguard Texans’ health, “the environmental quality part of its name is little more than a soothing phrase.”


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