Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Senate Goes Nuclear

Now that 3,500 truck loads (yes, 3,500) of radioactive waste are reportedly headed for West Texas, state lawmakers have finally reined in the ever-expanding nuclear dump site in Andrews County. But only a tiny bit.

This afternoon, the Senate passed Robert Duncan's SB 1667. The bill makes two minor changes to the Andrews County site's provisions. It hands oversight of all nuclear waste disposal to the more stringent regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. This move comes just after the Feds announced that the state health department probably wasn't up to the job. The bill also brings in some dough for the state's general revenue fund: imposing small fees on radioactive waste dumped at the Andrews County site by Waste Control Specialists.

But as Sen. Eliot Shapleigh pointed out, Duncan's bill won't prevent Texas from becoming the nation's repository for nuclear waste. Shapleigh said a handful of states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, have already inquired about trucking their radioactive waste to West Texas.

Duncan agreed with Shapleigh. "If I could prohibit this, I would," Duncan said. But he added that the "dye had been cast" when the Lege authorized the waste site in 2003, and SB 1667 was the best he could do. "If it's going to happen, we need to regulate it properly," he said.