by Nick Lawton
ANDREWS - On Tuesday, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission approved a rule allowing dozens of other states to store their waste at a site in Andrews County.
The Commission met at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning at the James Roberts Center in Andrews to make the vote.
The Waste Control Specialists site in Andrews was originally meant for low-grade radioactive waste from just Texas and Vermont.
The vote of approval from the Commission opens the site to up to 36 other states.
Both WCS and Commission officials say the site is ideal because it is the only commercial facility in the Unites States licensed to dispose of Class A, B and C low-level radioactive waste.
Opponents of the rule who first filed the restraining order against the Commission say the desire to make money has compromised the safety of the environment in Andrews if the site fills up and leaks.
"We think it's all about making money for WCS and that the capacity won't be there when we need it for disposal of reactors here in Texas," Tom "Smitty" Smith, Director of Public Citizen, said.
There was the controversy with the comment period last December when West Texans couldn't submit their E-mail comments because the address the Commission gave was faulty and bounced them back until the final three days of the period.
One Andrews resident who has lived in Andrews for 58 years, only has frustration that her voice against the rule couldn't be heard.
"As far as I know, see I don't know if my comment was even read," Andrews Resident, Peggy Pryor, said. "He more or less gave me the impression that he just read through them and threw them aside."
But WCS officials and the Chairman of the Commission said the effects of this rule are misunderstood. They said people have been misled into thinking this rule opens up the floodgates for other states' waste to pour in.
They want West Texans to know that the rule, if it's adopted, will have requirements for other states to follow before they dump their waste, and that none of it will cross into Andrews without their approval.
"The rule does not by itself say yes or no to any question," Michael Ford, Chairman of the Commission, said. "It was basically a procedure or set of procedures."
"It's actually just the opposite of opening up the floodgates. It's putting a gate in place," WCS Spokesman, Chuck McDonald, said. "To determine what comes in and what doesn't."
At this moment, we don't know how soon other states could be filing petitions to place their waste in Andrews.