By J. Eller @SDzzz SandersGuide 2016 YouTube
1995, 1998 and Beyond – A 20 year Battle and Counting…
Notes on the the Sierra Blanca issue:
This is about the TEXAS LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL COMPACT CONSENT ACT July 29, 1998 and Nuclear Compact between Texas, Vermont and Maine to ship nuclear waste from decommissioned nuclear plants in Vermont and Maine to a small community in Sierra Blanca, Texas, 16 miles from the Mexico border. Sierra Blanca was not only over 70% Latinos with a poverty level 2.6 times higher than the rest of Texas, it was politically disadvantaged without a state representative of its own.
When Bernie Sanders says the people decided in his defense of Sierra Blanca it doesn’t mean the citizens impacted by his decisions on any subject, not just Sierra Blanca. “The people” refers to his peers and colleagues; legislators and appointed commissioners. His evasive 1995 arguments for H.R.558 and 1998’s H.R. 629 are similar approaches to the same problem…the people of Sierra Blanca are making the decision, not Sanders, a my-hands-are-clean tactic refuted during the congressional debate, reminiscent of his other strategy for evading accountability, “you didn’t hear me say that”. Both apply to Sierra Blanca, because Sanders was adamant, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that he was not personally sending nuclear waste to Sierra Blanca, because the legislation itself did not have Sierra Blanca’s name in it.
Considering Harold Simmons had paid lobbyists to swarm congress and filled several campaign coffers of politicians involved, many being Sanders peers, there was no way he could not have known this was a dirty deal. Even Gov. George Bush had openly said to the press that Sierra Blanca was the chosen dump. With the environmentalist storm around WCS and Sierra Blanca coming out of Texas, Mexico, NAACP, LULAC, Sierra Club, newspapers and his dissenting colleagues we’re supposed to believe Sanders didn’t know he was committing environmental racism? This is what the real people of Sierra Blanca, Texas and Mexico had to do and sacrifice to stop the nuclear waste dump in Sierra Blanca, and the personal human cost of hunger strikes, marches, financial and emotional distress and family disintegration.
Bernie Sanders Smoke and Mirrors Environmentalism
What does Bernie Sanders say about race and the environment on his presidential campaign website? He erases his environmental history and launches a full propaganda campaign, pretending to protect the very people he was determined to poison in their own community. Excerpt from Sanders Presidential Campaign “Environmental Violence”:
“The environmental violence being inflicted on people of color who are denied the full rights of citizenship — especially migrant workers and new immigrants — is especially pronounced. Low-income Latino immigrants are more likely to live in areas with high levels of hazardous air pollution than anyone else. In fact, the odds of a Latino immigrant neighborhood being located in an area of high toxic pollution is one in three.
Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to work in hazardous jobs that place them at higher risk for serious occupational diseases, injuries and muscular-skeletal disabilities. The fatality rate among Latino workers is 23 percent higher than the fatal injury rate for all US workers. Often reluctant to complain about poor working conditions for fear of deportation or being fired, Mexican migrant workers are nearly twice as likely as the rest of the immigrant population to die at work. This is unacceptable and must be addressed.
Taken together, these injustices are largely the product of political marginalization and institutional racism. The less political power a community of color possesses, the more likely they are to experience insidious environmental and human health threats. The environmental violence being inflicted on these communities of color is taking a terrible toll, and must be made a national priority. Access to a clean and healthy environment is a fundamental right of citizenship. To deny such rights constitutes an environmental injustice that should never be tolerated.”
- We must protect low-income and minority communities, who are hit first and worst by the causes and impacts of climate change, while also protecting existing energy-sector workers as they transition into clean energy and other jobs.
- We must have equal enforcement of environmental, civil rights and public health laws.
- We need to address the inadequate environmental cleanup efforts of Superfund hazardous waste sites in communities of color.
- We must stop the unequal exposure of people of color to harmful chemicals, pesticides and other toxins in homes, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces and challenge faulty assumptions in calculating, assessing and managing risks, discriminatory zoning and land-use practices and exclusionary policies.
- Federal agencies must develop and implement clear, strategic plans to achieve climate and environmental justice and provide targeted action where the needs are greatest.
- The environmental analysis for a permit for a polluting facility must consider the disparate and cumulative environmental burden borne by a community.
- States should evaluate and report progress made on addressing climate and environmental injustice.
- We need to mitigate climate change and focus on building resilience in low-income and minority communities.
- We must promote cleaner manufacturing processes, renewable energy systems and safe product designs that end pollution and the use of toxic chemicals, while providing safe jobs and other economic benefits for people of color.” Bernie Sanders – Racial Justice
Sanders hypocrisy is boundless. His skill as a polished establishment politician rarely misses a target. Texas republicans promoted nuclear waste jobs as a replacement for dwindling oil production. In 2012 Sanders wrote a letter to the EPA on mercury, citing jobs while feigning environmental interest and forgetting what he had he tried to do to the environment in Sierra Blanca, finally firing off a hit on Senator Inhofe for good measure. He knows these letters get published, because he makes sure they get published.
“I want to create jobs, not cut jobs, and what we’re talking about is creating meaningful, good-paying jobs as we retrofit coal-burning plants so they do not poison the children of Vermont and other states around the country. To Senator Inhofe and others, I say, respectfully, stop poisoning our children. Let them grow up in a healthy way…” Sanders said. Sanders Letter-Votesmart
CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 629, TEXAS LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL COMPACT CONSENT ACT July 29, 1998
Excerpts of Sanders argument: “If I had my druthers, I would close down every nuclear power plant in America as quickly as we safely can. But the issue today is something different. The reality is, we have nuclear power plants. We have universities and hospitals that are using nuclear power. The environmental question today, therefore, is how do we get rid of that low-level waste in the safest possible way? In my view, that is what this legislation is about. I think the evidence is pretty clear that Texas is in fact the best location to get rid of this waste. The last point that I would make is there is nowhere in this legislation that talks about a specific site. Nowhere will we find that. We are not voting on a site. That decision is left to the authorities and the people of the State of Texas.” Congressional Record
When Simmons bought WCS in 1995, legislation immediately hit congress, as Simmons wanted. Bernie Sanders was a fast supporter.
PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 558, TEXAS LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL COMPACT CONSENT ACT December 20, 1995
Excerpts of Sanders argument: “Third, what has also, I think, not been made clear is this Congress is not designating a specific disposal site. That is not what we are doing. Presumably, the people of Texas have a process to determine what is in the best interest of their own people. Frankly, I would hope and expect that the people of Texas would not do anything that is environmentally dangerous to the people of their region. We in Congress are not making that decision. The people of Texas are making that decision, and I hope that we could respect that process.” “Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker, there is no secret that the depository is going to be in Texas. That is a decision for the people of Texas.” Congressional Record
Bernie Sanders wanted to strip all H.R.629 amendments as did the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in its complaint below regarding Paul Wellstone’s D-MN, amendments which originally addressed racism, poverty, environmental safety and the right to litigate for the citizens of Sierra Blanca. Gov. George Bush had predicted the nuclear power people would not like the amendments, suggesting Texas legislature adopt only the Doggett Amendment to protect Texas’ liability if the U.S. Congress failed to do it.
When Sanders exchanged the health and safety of poor Latino lives in Sierra Blanca, Texas for the health and happiness of white constituents in Vermont, he knew exactly what he was doing. Sierra Blanca was mentioned 58 times in the conference debate of H.R. 629.
Paul Wellstone D-Minnesota excerpt: “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 has considered.
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 license.
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 Spanish. 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.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is “disturbed” in a letter it writes to Senator Olympia Snowe, a proponent for the compact for the state of Maine. It objects, as Gov. George Bush predicted, to Wellstone’s amendments citing “terms of race, color, national origin, or income level”:
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC, March 20, 1998.
Hon. Olympia J. Snowe, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Senator Snowe: In response to the request from your staff, here are the views of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on two proposed amendments to S. 270, a bill to provide the consent of Congress to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLW) Disposal Compact. The proposed amendments would add two new conditions to the conditions of consent to the compact: (1) that no LLW may be brought into Texas for disposal at a compact facility from any State other than Maine or Vermont (referred to below as the “exclusion” amendment): and (2) that “the compact not be implemented . . . in any way that discriminates against any community (through disparate treatment or disparate impact) by reason of the composition of the community in terms of race, color, national origin, or income level” (referred to below as the “discrimination clause”). These amendments raise some significant questions of concern to the NRC. First, no other Congressional compact ratification legislation has included such conditions to Congress’ consent. Making the Congressional consent for this compact different from that for other compacts would create an asymmetrical system and could lead to conflicts among regions. In the past, Congress has set a high priority on establishing a consistent set of rules under which the interstate compact system for LLW disposal would operate. With respect to the exclusion condition, while the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 and the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 authorize compact States to exclude LLW from outside their compact region, the terms of doing so are left to the States. This is consistent with the intent of these statutes to make LLW disposal the responsibility of the States and to leave the implementation of that responsibility largely to the States’ discretion. Thus, the addition of the exclusion condition to the compact would deprive the party States of the ability to make their own choices as to how to handle this important area. In addition, restriction on importation of LLW into Texas to waste coming from Maine or Vermont could prevent other compacts (or non-compact States) from contracting with the Texas compact for disposal of their waste (such as has occurred between the Rocky Mountain and Northwest compacts). This type of arrangement with existing LLW disposal facilities may well become a preferred economical method of LLW disposal. It is also important to note that the exclusion condition may hamper NRC emergency access to the Texas facility pursuant to section 8 of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985. With respect to the discrimination clause, the Commission supports the general objectives of efforts to address discrimination involving “race, color, national origin, or income level.” However, it is unclear how a condition containing broad language of the type contained in the proposed amendment would be applied in a specific case involving a compact. This lack of clarity is likely to create confusion and uncertainty for all parties involved, and could lead to costly, time-consuming litigation. Including such a provision in binding legislation may have broad significance for the affected States and other parties and would appear to warrant extensive Congressional review of its implications. In light of the above, the NRC opposes the approval of amendments to S. 270 that would incorporate the exclusion condition or an undefined discrimination clause into the Texas compact bill. Sincerely, Shirley Ann Jackson. Senate Record
HISTORY OF H.R. 629 from Congress to Senate.
- The bill (H.R. 629), as amended, was considered read the third time, and passed. Senate 09/20/1998
- Became Public Law No: 105-236. Law 09/20/1998
- Signed by President. 09/10/1998
Presented to President. Veto-proof margin. 09/02/1998
- Conference report agreed to in Senate:
- Senate agreed to conference report by Yea-Nay Vote. 78-15.Record Vote No: 255.(consideration: CR S9809-9819) 07/29/1998
- Conference report agreed to in House: On agreeing to the conference report Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 305 – 117 (Roll No. 344).(consideration: CR H6522-6535)
- Conference report filed: Conference report H. Rept. 105-630 filed.(text of conference report: CR H5724-5727) 07/16/1998
- Conference committee actions: Conferees agreed to file conference report. 07/14/1998
- Conference committee actions: Conference held. 05/12/1998
- To conference: On motion that the House disagree to the Senate amendment, and request a conference Agreed to by voice vote.(consideration: CR H3068-3074)
- Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. 10/07/1997
- Passed/agreed to in House: On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 309 – 107 (Roll no. 497). 07/15/1997
- Reported by the Committee on Commerce. H. Rept. 105-181.
02/06/1997 Introduced in House
- S.Amdt.2278 to S.Amdt.2276 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Purpose: To add certain conditions to the grant of consent to the compact.
Sponsor: Sen. Wellstone, Paul D. [D-MN] (Submitted 04/01/1998) (Proposed 04/01/1998)
- Latest Action:
04/02/98 Amendment agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent.
S.Amdt.2277 to S.Amdt.2276 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Purpose: To add certain conditions to the grant of consent to the compact.
Sponsor: Sen. Wellstone, Paul D. [D-MN] (Submitted 04/01/1998) (Proposed 04/01/1998)
- Latest Action:
04/02/98 Amendment agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent.
S.Amdt.2276 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Purpose: In the nature of a substitute.
Sponsor: Sen. Snowe, Olympia J. [R-ME] (Submitted 04/01/1998) (Proposed 04/01/1998)
- Latest Action: 04/02/98 Amendment SP 2276 agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent.
H.Amdt.421 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Sponsor: House Committee on Commerce (Offered 10/07/1997)
- Latest Action:
10/07/97 On agreeing to the Commerce amendment (A003) Agreed to without objection.
- H.Amdt.420 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Amendment sought to prohibit nuclear waste transported to Texas from being routed through any incorporated area with a population in excess of 25,000.
Sponsor: Rep. Kucinich, Dennis J. [D-OH-10] (Offered 10/07/1997)
- Latest Action:
10/07/97 Mr. Schaefer, Dan raised a point of order against the Kucinich amendment (A002). Mr. Schaefer stated that the content of the amendment was non-germane to the bill and was, therefore, in violation of the rule of the House. Point of order overruled by the Chair.
- H.Amdt.419 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)
Amendment provides that only low-level radioactive from Maine and Vermont shall be imported into Texas under the compact.
Sponsor: Rep. Doggett, Lloyd [D-TX-10] (Offered 10/07/1997)
- Latest Action:
10/07/97 On agreeing to the Doggett amendment (A001) Agreed to by voice vote.
OPPOSITION TO THE NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP AT SIERRA BLANCA AND CONFERENCE DOCUMENTS
- Paul Wellstone
- John Bryant
- Lloyd Doggett
- REP. SILVESTRE REYES
- League of United Latin American Citizens – LULAC
- PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE UNITED COMMISSIONS OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, BORDER AFFAIRS, AND FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC REGARDING THE NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL FACILITY THAT IS PLANNED IN SIERRA BLANCA, TEXAS
- EXAMINERS RECOMMEND NO LICENSE FOR PROPOSED NUCLEAR-WASTE DUMP—STATE AGENCY HASN’T FULLY EXPLORED POSSIBLE HAZARDS OF W. TEXAS FACILITY, THEY SAY
- BUSH WANTS NUCLEAR WASTE LIMIT FOR DUMP (limited to TX-VT-ME
Paul Wellstone D-MN made a lengthy, impassioned plea to stop H.R. 629, finally submitting amendments that offered legal remedies for citizens impacted by the dump site, addressing potential safety issues and violations that were not included in H.R. 629.
Excerpt: “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. 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.”
The following was submitted to record:
DISSENTING VIEWS OF HON. JOHN BRYANT
“The “Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Consent Act”–H.R. 558–does not deserve the support of the United States Congress and should not be ratified by the House. The overwhelming vote in the House Commerce Committee should not lead one to believe this compact is non-controversial. What the Commerce Committee did was vote against the interests of the 2,900 citizens of Texas’ Hudspeth County.”This compact is unlike any other compact previously approved by Congress in that the host state–Texas–is the only state that has proposed to place its compact site on an international border, near the Rio Grande River, in an environmentally sensitive area. “The proposed site, which is the only site being considered by the State, is also a volatile earthquake zone. On April 13, 1995, an earthquake scoring 5.6 on the Richter scale struck the West Texas region. Its epicenter was less than one hundred miles from the proposed site, and the quake was felt by individuals several hundred miles away. Numerous earthquakes have occurred in the area–the largest, 6.4 on the Richter scale in 1931 with its epicenter only 40 miles from the site–and the U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that quakes of 7.5 magnitude could occur at any time along any of the fourteen faults in the immediate vicinity.
Any contamination in Mexico resulting from damage to the disposal facility due to an earthquake will force the United States government to compensate the Mexican government and private citizens for any damages. The siting of this compact in a geologically volatile area should be of considerable importance to this Congress. Proponents claim that the siting of the compact does not violate the La Paz Agreement because the State of Texas has notified the Mexican Government of its decisions throughout the selection process. However, the Agreement clearly calls for a coordinated, cooperative effort to resolve the environmental problems along the border–not to create new ones.” Dissenting View of John Bryant
Lloyd Doggett D-TX – OPPOSITION TO H.R.629
Mr. DOGGETT.” Mr. Speaker, I would close by simply emphasizing to my colleagues 5 points.
First, when we talk about this radioactive waste as being low level, that is good for public relations purposes but not for health purposes. The radioactive waste that will be buried at Sierra Blanca will be deadly to human beings for longer than all recorded human history. It is extraordinarily lethal and makes this debate all the more important.
Number two, the Sierra Blanca site was not chosen because of its suitability but solely because of its vulnerability, its political vulnerability, which is playing out here today. It was not the best site for a storage facility. It was the easiest site, because it is a largely poor, Hispanic area. That is one of the reasons that the Texas State conference of the NAACP this year called this ‘‘environmental racism.’’ It is one of the reasons that the League of Conservation Voters has spotlighted this as one of the key anti-environmental votes of this Congress.
Number three, we do not need this dump. It is great public relations to talk about slowing scientific research or the health isotopes that are vital to the future of our health, but that has absolutely nothing to do with what is really at stake in this debate. We have heard much about all the other compacts that have already been approved. What our colleagues have not pointed out is that of those 9 compacts that
Congress has approved, not one of them has secured a license agreement, not one. And two of them have actually stopped looking for a site. This leads to the conclusion that if they sought those compacts, but they are not doing anything with them, why should we approve another one in Texas? Indeed, as the most recent report on radioactive waste storage by Dr. F. Gregory Hayden has pointed out, ‘‘There is currently an excess capacity for this type of disposal in the United States without any change to current
law or practice.”
That leads to the fourth and very important point, that the safeguards that are in this compact, without the amendments that have been stripped out, are meaningless. My colleague, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. HALL) from Rockwall, is always eloquent, and he has been very candid in this debate. He has said it is not the fellow with the biggest truck that is going to be decisive here. I agree. My concern is it will be determined by the place with the biggest dump. We all know Texas is bigger than most any other place, and we are about to have one heck of a big dump out there in west Texas. It will become the dumping site for all the people from those other places around the country because, as Mr. HALL has quite appropriately noted, and I quote him from this debate today, ‘‘It might reduce the operating cost.’’
The economic factors for those special interests, who want a cheaper place to put their radioactive garbage and found a convenient place among the poor people of Sierra Blanca, who now will have no adequate safeguards.
To suggest that the compact limits it to 20 percent from out of State is misleading. If we read the fine print, it is 20 percent that could come from Maine and Vermont, but there is no limitation that I see with regard to the rest of the States.
Finally, my colleague, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. BARTON) has been fair and direct with me. He told me on this floor that he would check with the governor. That is exactly what he did.
My final point is that without the blessing of Governor George Bush, we would be limited to three States. Governor Bush said one thing in Texas; he did another in Washington. That is most unfortunate for Texas.”
TESTIMONY OF REP. SILVESTRE REYES, JULY 29, 1998
“Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that every member of this House is aware of the substantial opposition to this compact. I want to read you a list of those cities and counties that have passed resolutions opposing it:
El Paso County, Presidio County, Jeff Davis County, Culberson County, Val Verde County, Webb County, Starr County, Hidalgo County, Cameron County, Zapata County, Reeves County, Brewster County, Ward County, Sutton County, Kimble County, Kinney County, Crockett County, Pecos County, Maverick County, Ector County, City of Austin, City of Del Rio, City of Bracketville, City of Marfa, City of Van Horn, City of El Paso, City of Alpine, Horizon City, City of Ft. Stockton, City of Laredo, City of Eagle Pass, City of Presidio, City of McAllen, City Council of Juarez. Mexican State Congress of Coahuila, Mexican State Congress of Chihuahua, Mexican State Congress of Nuevo Leon, Mexican National Chamber of Deputies, Mexican National Senate, Mexican State Congress of Sonora, Mexican State Congress of Tamaulipas.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to enter into the record a letter dated yesterday from the League of United Latin American Citizens.”
LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS – LULAC,
Washington, DC, July 28, 1998.
“DEAR REPRESENTATIVE: On behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), I urge you to vote No on the Conference Committee Report for The Texas Maine Vermont Radioactive Waste Compact.
LULAC is the oldest and largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the nation. Since 1929, we have been providing a voice to our community throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. A major concern of ours is the proposed site of a nuclear waste dump near Sierra Blanca in Texas.
As you know, The Compact proposes the construction of shallow, unlined soil trenches for the burial of ‘‘low-level’’ radioactive waste. LULAC strongly opposes this Compact.
Serious issues of environmental justice and blatant discrimination arise when one considers this bill. One should not only vote against this proposal because of serious environmental and health matters, but also because of the racial discrimination practiced against the predominantly Mexican-American population of the area.
Just this month, two Texas administrative law judges recommended the Sierra Blanca compact dump license be denied because of severe geological problems and unanswered questions about environmental racism. If Congress ignores these problems and approves the compact, thus funding the dump, tremendous pressure will be placed on the political appointees at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to approve the license despite the judges’ recommendation
to deny it.
The selection of a poor Mexican-American community (which is already the site of one of the largest sewage sludge projects in the country) brings to mind serious considerations of environmental justice. Although the bill does not expressly designate Hudspeth County as the location for the site, the Faskin Ranch near Sierra Blanca has clearly been earmarked and a draft license has been approved. The decision Congress now faces on this matter cannot be made in a vacuum, ignoring serious environmental justice questions that have been raised about the site selection process. These unjust procedures are in apparent contradiction of the 1994 Executive Order that firmly upheld environmental justice.
There are also matters of international relevance that must be considered. The dumping of nuclear waste near Sierra Blanca, approximately 16 miles from the Rio Grande, would violate that 1983 La Paz Agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. With this agreement, both nations committed their efforts to prevent, reduce and eliminate pollution in the U.S./Mexico border area. The proposed site is well within the ‘‘border area’’ of 63 miles on each side of the border. The government of Mexico has already expressed its strong opposition to the project in communications to the U.S. Department of State.
LULAC would caution Congress not to be complicit in what has become, whether intentional or not, a repulsive trend in this country of setting the most hazardous and undesirable facilities in poor, politically powerless communities with high percentages of people of color.
Only a vote against The Texas Maine Vermont Radioactive Waste Compact Conference Committee Report will ensure that this trend is not extended into Hudspeth County.
Thank you for your consideration of this issue. If you need more information please call Cuauhte´moc Figueroa, Director of Policy and Communications at (202) 408–0060.
Sincerely, RICK DOVALINA, LULAC National President.”
Unofficial Translation of Pronouncements passed by the Mexican National Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados) and Senate in opposition to the proposed nuclear waste disposal facility in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
Translation by Richard Boren
The Pronouncement was approved unanimously by the Chamber of Deputies on April 27, 1998 and by the Senate on April 30, 1998. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies Pronouncements are nearly identical. Following is the translation of the Senate Pronouncement.
PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE UNITED COMMISSIONS OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, BORDER AFFAIRS, AND FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC REGARDING THE NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL FACILITY THAT IS PLANNED IN SIERRA BLANCA, TEXAS
“Honorable Assembly: The United Commissions of Environment and Natural Resources, Border Affairs, and Foreign Relations of the Senate was given for their study and analysis the point of agreement passed by the Plenary of the Permanent Commission of the Honorable Congress of the Union on February 11, 1998, that is transcribed as follows:
First—That the Mexican Congress, through the Permanent Commission, declares that the proposed project of Sierra Blanca, Texas, like other proposed disposal facilities on the Mexican border, puts at risk the health of the population in the border zone and constitutes an aggression to the national dignity;
Second—That the United Commissions of Ecology and Environment, Border Affairs, and Foreign Relations of the House of Deputies and the Senate, meet with the Intersectarial Group made up of the Department of Foreign Relations, Department of Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Fishing, and the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguarding, in order to analyze in depth the consequences for Mexico of the installation of the radioactive waste disposal facility in Sierra Blanca and of the disposal facilities of toxic and radioactive wastes in the border zone of the country with the United States of America, with the purpose of carrying out the pronouncements and necessary measures to impede their installation.
July 29, 1998 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—HOUSE H6531
In order to proceed and comply with the mandate granted by the Plenary of the Permanent Commission of the Honorable Congress of the Union, the members of the United Commissions of Environment and Natural Resources, Border Affairs, and Foreign Relations of the Chamber of Senators, have analyzed existing documentation and studies about the radioactive waste disposal facility that is planned in Sierra Blanca, Texas, meeting on various occasions to design a political action strategy. Likewise a work session was held with the inter-sectarial group, with the purpose of integrating the present Pronouncement.
Considering That: (a) the communities on both sides of the border, diverse non-governmental organizations, political organizations, and public officials from Mexico and the United States of America have manifested their total opposition to the construction of the nuclear waste disposal facility
that the government of the State of Texas plans to install in the community of Sierra Blanca, Texas, at a distance of approximately 30 kilometers from the Mexican border;
(b) the administrative authorities of the State of Texas convened public hearings with the purpose of hearing the opinions of interested sectors regarding the possible construction of the disposal facility in Sierra Blanca;
(c) the position that the Mexican government assumes with relation to the proposed disposal facility of Sierra Blanca will constitute a clear precedent that can be invoked relating to disposal facilities that are
planned in the future within 100 kilometers along the common border;
(d) the intersectarial group—created in 1995 by the Federal Executive Power with the purpose of defining the policy of the Mexican government regarding disposal facilities in the border zone and to continue to review the projects that are planned in the states of the southern United States—wrote
a preliminary study regarding the disposal facility being questioned;
(e) the United Commissions have received diverse studies that demonstrate the existence of risks in the zone, not only the seismic activity of the terrain, but also due to the meteorological and hydro-geological registers observed in the chosen site. This represents a high potential risk of contamination for the Rio Bravo and the underground aquifers, which could cause a negative impact for the health of the population, the environment, and the natural resources onboth sides of the border;
(f) other adequate sites exist in the United States for the installation of radioactive waste disposal facilities, located outside of the border zone of 100 kilometers which shows that the chosen site in Sierra Blanca doesn’t represent the only option for the proposed project;
(g) the radioactive wastes that are planned for disposal in Sierra Blanca, next to the Mexican border, don’t only include wastes generated in the State of Texas, but also it is foreseen to deposit wastes from the states of Vermont and Maine, located on the border between United States and Canada;
(h) the construction of the disposal facility in dispute would violate the spirit of diverse precepts of international law and would implicate the noncompliance of the commitments assumed by the United States after the signature of the Agreement on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment in the Border Area (La Paz Agreement), particularly Article 2 of the Agreement approved in 1983, which states:
‘‘The Parties undertake to the fullest extent practical to adopt the appropriate measures to prevent, reduce, and eliminate sources of pollution in their respective territory which affect the border area of the other.’’ In like manner, the Agreement commits the Parties to cooperate in the field of environmental protection in the border zone, on the basis of equality, reciprocity, and mutual benefit. In complying with these dispositions, the United States Government must take measures in this case with the appropriate authorities, in order that the project not be authorized. On the basis of what has already been stated and being founded in articles 58 and 59 of the Rules for the Interior Government of the General Congress of the United Mexican States, just as for dealing with a matter that merits an urgent resolution of the Honorable Senate of the Republic, due to the adverse effects that this project could have on the health of our population and the natural resources, we present the following Pronouncement.
Pronouncement First—the Senate of the Republic reiterates its complete rejection of the project which is the construction and operation of the nuclear waste disposal facility that the Government of Texas plans to build in Sierra Blanca, Texas, and expresses its disagreement, concern, and inconformity with the policy adopted and followed up to now by the government of the United States, that favors the construction of disposal facilities on the southern border with Mexico, without taking into account the potential negative impacts that this policy can have regarding human health and the environment in the communities located on both sides of the border.
Second—The Senate of the Republic has carried out an evaluation of the available information about this disposal project, whose result demonstrates that its operation will bring with it potential adverse impacts.
Based on this, being aware that the administrative authorities in the State of Texas have convened public hearings with the intention of analyzing the implications derived from the construction of said project, it is appropriate that the Mexican Government reiterate their concern and unconformity in light of the possibility that the project will be authorized.
Third—The Senate of the Republic sets forth to the Department of Foreign Relations to consider the formulation of the following proposals to the United States Government:
(a) Manifest the disagreement of the Senate of the Republic regarding the policy of the United States that favors the installation of nuclear and toxic waste disposal facilities in the border area.
(b) Insist in the possibility of relocating the Sierra Blanca project to a site located outside of the 100 kilometer common border zone.
(c) Manifest the wishes of the Senate of the Republic to the members of the House of Representatives of the United States so that they vote against the Compact Law that authorizes the disposal of wastes between the states of Texas, Maine, and Vermont in virtue that its approval signifies a relevant approval for the construction and the management of the disposal facility of radioactive wastes in Sierra Blanca, Texas and represents a violation of the spirit of the La Paz Agreement.
(d) Include the subject of the disposal facilities for radioactive and toxic wastes in the next meeting of the Mexico-United States Bi-national Commission in order to:
I. design criteria for the installation and operation of disposal facilities in the border zone of 100 kilometers within the framework of the La Paz Agreement and the Border 21 Program, in order to include the possibility of establishing a reciprocal moratorium on the installation of disposal facilities for radioactive waste inside the 100 kilometer border zone,
II. establish that a group of experts from both countries analyze the impacts of the proposed disposal facilities in the 100 kilometer border zone.
Fourth—The Senate of the Republic proposes:
(a) To inform the Governors and municipal mayors of the states of the Republic of Mexico in the border zone with the United States about the current status of the Sierra Blanca project and other disposal projects that are being planned in the 100 kilometer border zone with the objective of adopting any measures that are considered opportune.
(b) To transmit existing information about the Sierra Blanca project to the local legislatures of the border states of the Mexican Republic with the objective of making this information available to them so they can adopt any measures which they consider appropriate.
(c) That a multi-party commission of senators be formed with the purpose of meeting with the governor of Texas, George Bush, with the purpose of telling him that the Mexican Senate believes that the Sierra Blanca project violates the spirit of the commitments made with the signing of the La Paz Agreement and that are linked to the state which he governs and which don’t contribute to the strengthening of the good relations of friendship and neighborliness that must prevail between both countries.
Fifth—That the Senate of the Republic proposes including this matter in the agenda of the next inter-parliamentary meeting between Mexico and the United States.
Sixth—The Senate of the Republic expresses that this case constitutes a valuable opportunity for both countries to demonstrate their good will, responsibility, and capacity for cooperating in dealing with similar matters of common interest.
Seventh—So that the public opinion has greater knowledge on this subject, it is suggested to prepare as soon as possible a document that can be disseminated through the national and international media, in order to express the nature of this problem and the current status of the project in dispute.
Approved in the Honorable Chambers of the Senators April 30, 1998.
EXAMINERS RECOMMEND NO LICENSE FOR PROPOSED NUCLEAR-WASTE DUMP—STATE AGENCY HASN’T FULLY EXPLORED POSSIBLE HAZARDS OF W. TEXAS FACILITY, THEY SAY
(By George Kuempel)
AUSTIN.—In a victory for environmental groups, two state hearing examiners Tuesday recommended against licensing a low-level nuclear-waste dump in far West Texas.
The recommendation was a setback for Gov. George W. Bush, who has tentatively backed the proposed dump, near Sierra Blanca just 18 miles from the Rio Grande.
The hearing examiners found that the State Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority, which wants to build the facility, did not adequately determine whether a fault under the proposed site posed an environmental hazard.
Kerry Sullivan and Mike Rogan of the State Office of Administrative Hearings also said the agency failed to adequately address how the proposed facility might harm the quality of life in the area. The examiners’ report was forwarded to the three-member Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The commission staff already has recommended
that a license be issued, but the final decision rests with the commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Mr. Bush.
Their decision is not expected soon. Congress is considering a proposed pact favored by Mr. Bush that would allow for low-level nuclear waste from Texas, Vermont and Maine to be buried at the site.
Mr. Bush said in a written statement that he was ‘‘troubled’’ by the examiners’ findings.
‘‘I have said all along that if the site is not proven safe, I will not support it,’’ he said. ‘‘I urge the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to thoroughly review this recommendation and the facts and to make their decision based on sound science and the health and safety of Texans.’’
Democrat Garry Mauro, who is running against Mr. Bush in this year’s governor’s race, praised the examiners’ ruling. ‘‘I hope Governor Bush calls on his three [TNRCC] appointees to immediately reject this permit,’’ he said.
Mr. Mauro said that he is pleased the administrative judges also raised the ‘‘specter of environmental racism’’ but that he is sorry they didn’t address Mexico’s concerns about a possible treaty violation.
Critics have said Sierra Blanca was chosen because of its largely poor Hispanic population, an allegation that supporters have disputed.
Mexican lawmakers visited Austin last month to protest the dump, saying it would violate an agreement between the nations to curb pollution along the border. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Rogan spent three months hearing from both sides on the issue. Dump opponents said they were pleased with the findings.
‘‘Politically and legally, it’s a victory,’’ said Bill Addington, a merchant in Sierra Blanca, a town of 700 in Hudspeth County, about 90 miles southeast of El Paso. ‘‘The authority has not done its job, even with all the money and resources they have at their disposal.’’
But Mr. Addington also was cautious because the final decision on the dump license rests with the TNRCC, which is not bound by the hearings officers’ recommendation.
The dump, which would be built on a sprawling ranch just outside the rural town, is intended to hold radioactive waste primarily from the state’s utilities hospitals and universities.
It spawned opposition from critics in West Texas and Mexico, who fear that it would contaminate precious groundwater reserves.
BUSH WANTS NUCLEAR WASTE LIMIT FOR DUMP (By Gary Scharrer)
BROWNSVILLE.—Gov. George W. Bush will ask Texas lawmakers to pass a law next year making it absolutely clear that only Vermont and Maine may export nuclear waste to the Lone Star State under a compact moving through the U.S. Congress.
‘‘I think we ought to take this to the floor of the state House and Senate and say, ‘We will limit future (compact) commissioners to Maine and Vermont and Texas,’ ’’ Bush said Thursday at the start of the 16th annual Border Governor Conference. Bush said he agrees with the spirit of an amendment by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.,
that would restrict the proposed compact to low-level nuclear waste from those three states. But the nuclear power industry opposes the amendment, which it contends will delay opening of the state’s low level nuclear waste dump near Sierra Blanca.
‘‘If it passes without that amendment, I think it makes sense for the governor to propose a bill out of the Texas Legislature that forever limits low level radioactive waste to Texas, Maine and Vermont,’’ Bush said.
Opponents of the proposed dump site 90 miles southeast of El Paso contend that for West Texas stands to become a national dumping ground if the compact passes without restrictions. A majority of appointed compact commissioners could decide to accept nuclear waste from other states, according to the pact already approved by the three states.
More than 50 Mexican journalists are covering the Border Governors Conference. The issue of low-level waste dominated Bush’s opening-day news conference. Bush assured Mexico’s news media that Texas won’t open the dump ‘‘unless it’s safe.’’
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is expected to act later this year on a license application necessary for opening and operating the dump.
Some elected officials in Mexico contend the planned dump will violate the La Paz Agreement negotiated by the two nations in 1983 to prevent and eliminate pollution sources within 52 miles of the international border. The Sierra site is about 16 miles from the Rio Grande.
Bush said he’s already received a legal opinion indicating the proposed dump does not violate the La Paz Agreement. Those who disagree need to appeal to federal officials, he said.
‘‘This is a federal treaty. I would strongly urge Mexican officials take it up with federal officials in Washington, DC, to determine whether or not the treaty negotiated between federal governments pertains,’’ he said.
Governors from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California and most governors from
the six Mexican border states are at the two day conference. Water and border crossings probably will get the most attention, Bush predicted. Texas and bordering Mexican states face the second drought in three years. A plan used two years ago to conserve and share water is likely to be used again this summer, Bush said.”
Both he and Republican Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull said a proposed larger border-crossing card won’t work because Mexican citizens can’t afford it. ‘‘The idea of the card is fine,’’ she said. ‘‘I like the high-tech idea, but it is far too expensive for the Mexican family to afford. And I don’t believe we will be able to implement it this quickly, . . . I have suggested that they delay implementation.’’ A laser card would cost $45 and would be good for 10 years, but doesn’t include photo, passport and visa costs.
‘‘It’s very important,’’ Bush said, ‘‘for the U.S. federal government and the State Department to understand how important daily traffic is between our sister cities along the border, and we ought to make it easy for people to receive a modern card. ‘‘The idea of modernizing border-crossing cards is a good idea. But to make it very expensive and difficult to obtain is not a good idea.’’