Lawmaker resurrects radioactive waste bill

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Associated Press

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 7:02 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Republican lawmaker resurrected a radioactive waste bill on Tuesday that once signed into law would allow a West Texas storage site to accept more hazardous materials from out of state.

The measure allows the Waste Control Specialists' nuclear waste facility to import materials with greater radioactivity from other states. The proposed law also encourages Texas companies to export lower-level waste. Originally, the facility was only intended to accept materials from Texas and Vermont, but lawmakers have expanded what materials it can accept.

Waste Control Specialists says it needs the changes to make the site profitable. The company's owner, Harold Simmons, is one of the state's largest political donors to Republican politicians.

San Angelo Rep. Drew Darby had seen his original bill die due to a parliamentary error on Monday night, but a day later tacked his measure on to a bill changing how and when money is transferred into a fund to pay for long-term maintenance of the site. The limit on the total volume and radioactivity stored at the site would not be changed by the bill.

Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said he's been fighting this proposed change to the site's rules for the last 12 years. He had found the error that killed the original bill on Monday.

"This undermines our two nuclear power generators and undermines the medical waste generators in this state, because we're filling it up too fast," Burnam said of the storage facility. "The concept behind the original national legislation in the early 1990s was that each state would have an opportunity to have a place for the waste it generates ... now nearly all 49 states will be sending their waste to the state of Texas."

Burnam also failed to add a provision that would have called for an independent auditor.

The bill was approved on a bipartisan vote of 131-12, and it now goes back to the Senate for a final vote.

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