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« The final mission for Cassini | Main | Contact your two U.S. senators; urge them to oppose Rick Perry as energy secretary! »
Thursday
Feb232017

Urge your two U.S. Senators to oppose former TX governor Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary!

As Texas governor, Rick Perry did all he could to advance the interests of the private "low-level" radioactive waste dump called Waste Control Specialists (WCS), LLC in Andrews County, Texas. WCS was owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, infamous as the "King of Superfund Sites" and a "most evil genius." Simmons was also a top campaign contributor to Rick Perry, reportedly donating $1.25 million to the governor's (and two-time presidential candidate's) political campaign coffers. Although Simmons died at the end of 2013, his family still owns WCS.

At Counterpunch, Beyond Nuclear has published an exposé entitled "Radioactive Waste is Good for You, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rick Perry as Energy Secretary." Mother Jones has also reported on Perry's blatant conflict of interest, in an article entitled "Will Rick Perry Privatize America's Nuclear Waste Storage?"

President Donald J. Trump has nominated Perry to be Energy Secretary. Perry's confirmation was approved by the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, by a vote of 16 to 7, in late January. His ultimate confirmation vote will likely take place on the full Senate floor next week.

TAKE ACTION:

ASAP, please
urge your two U.S. Senators to do everything in their power to block Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary.

MAKE PHONE CALLS:

Call both of your U.S. Senators' offices in Washington, D.C. during normal business hours, via the U.S. Capitol switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.

In addition, since your U.S. Senators are very likely home for the President's Day recess, phone their in-district office phone numbers (thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for this link to the in-district phone numbers chart for U.S. Senators nationwide!)

Here is a sample script you can use, or adapt:

Hi, my name is ____ , and I'm from [City, State]. I am calling to ask you to oppose Rick Perry as Energy Secretary.  He has a blatant conflict of interest regarding the Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump in Texas. WCS's owner, Harold Simmons, a Dallas billionaire, was also a top campaign contributor to Rick Perry. Now WCS is seeking billions of taxpayer dollars from the Department of Energy to open a centralized interim storage site for high-level radioactive waste, all at taxpayer cost, liability, and risk.”
 

SEND EMAILS AND/OR FAXES:

You can also email or fax your U.S. Senators the same message immediately above at any time. Look up their direct contact info. at their websites for that contact information, listed here. Or when you call them, per the instructions above, ask the staffperson you speak with for the fax number, and/or instructions on how to email your Senator(s).

SIGN PETITIONS:

Sign Food & Water Watch's petition!

And sign the FOE petition!

And sign MoveOn.org's petition!

And sign DailyKos's petition! 

SUBMIT PUBLIC COMMENTS OPPOSING A PARKING LOT DUMP AT WCS

On a closely related matter, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is accepting public comments on the environmental scoping for WCS's proposed centralized interim storage site, until March 13th. Please see Beyond Nuclear's action alert regarding this, including sample comments you can use to submit your own by the deadline.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee held its nomination hearing to consider confirmation of former Texas governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary on Thursday, January 19th. (See Beyond Nuclear's press release re: Perry's ENR confirmation hearing.)

On Jan. 31, The ENR Committee voted on Rick Perry's confirmation. The confirmation was approved, by a vote of 16 to 7. As reported by Ranking ENR Committee Democrat Maria Cantell (D-WA), who also voted against Perry's confirmation:

Gov. Perry received 16 votes of support, with Sens. Wyden, Sanders, Franken, Hirono, Duckworth and Heinrich opposing his nomination.

This means that all of the Republicans on the ENR Committee voted in favor of Perry's confirmation, as did Democrats Cortez Masto (NV), Manchin (WV), and Stabenow (MI), as well as King (Independent from Maine, who caucuses with Democrats). All of these U.S. Senators who voted in favor of Perry's confirmation need to hear from their constituents, expressing alarm and deep concern, and urging them to change their votes on the Senate floor, and to oppose Perry's confirmation. (See an example of such a statement of concern, sent by Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan to Senator Stabenow of Michigan, which you can use to prepare your own communication to your Senator who voted the wrong way in the ENR Committee.)

Conversely, those six Democrats (Cantwell from WA, Wyden from OR, Franken from MN, Hirono from HI, Duckworth from IL, and Heinrich from NM), and one Independent who caucuses with Democrats (Sanders from VT), deserve letters/emails/phone calls of thanks and support from their constituents, and encouragement to keep leading efforts to block Perry's confirmation on the Senate floor! (See an example of such a thank you letter, sent by Beyond Nuclear to Senator Sanders of Vermont, which you can use to prepare your own thank you letter to your own Senator who voted the right way in the ENR Committee.) 


In addition to Rick Perry previously having wanted, as a presidential candidate, to eliminate the Department of Energy (if only he could have recalled its name during a live candidates debate!), being out of his depth on nuclear weapons issues, and (until just days before his Senate committee confirmation hearing) his blatant conflict re: the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), there is also his conflict re: the environmental injustice of the WCS radioactive waste dump. WCS is located in Andrews County, Texas, which -- along with its immediately adjacent neighbors across the border in New Mexico -- raises serious environmental justice concerns, given the large Latin American population, as well as its high percentage of low income residents, already exposed to a disproportionate burden of impacts from polluting nuclear/radioactive waste and fossil fuel industries.
 

WCS can be viewed as a pet project of Perry's. Perry went so far as to travel to West Texas, promoting high-level radioactive waste storage in the area, as reported by the Texas Observer. This is in fact WCS's next major expansion plan, to contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to store 40,000 metric tons (more than half of what currently exists in the country!) of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel from across the U.S. as a consolidated or centralized interim storage (CIS) site. In April 2016, WCS applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its license, a proceeding that is now intensifying, despite an environmental coalition's assertion that the application violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as Amended (see coalition letter to NRC, and press release).

WCS stands to make billions of dollars, paid for entirely by U.S. taxpayers, just during the construction and operations phases alone. If something goes wrong (and WCS is located upstream from the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest in North America, providing vital drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in numerous Great Plains states from Texas to South Dakota), U.S. taxpayers would hold full, unlimited liability.

If opened, the WCS CIS facility would launch unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments, through most states. These high-risk "Mobile Chernobyls" would be mostly rail shipments, although even then this could involve a large number of barge shipments on waterways, including seacoasts, rivers, and the Great Lakes. Heavy haul truck shipments on roads could also be involved (as could Legal Weight Truck shipments on nationwide interstate highways, if WCS simply gets a rubber-stamped license amendment from NRC at some future date).

Centralized interim surface storage makes no sense -- the wastes would have to be moved to a deep geologic repository elsewhere someday anyway, thus multiplying transport risks. But it also faces the real risk of becoming a de facto permanent parking lot dump.

A lesson (that should have been!) learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, is that collusion between so-called nuclear safety regulators, the nuclear industry, and government officials is very dangerous. The Japanese Parliament, in its first ever independent investigation, published in 2012, concluded that the root cause of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe was just such collusion.

Here, Rick Perry is the embodiment of just such collusion, in the form of radioactive crony capitalism, plutocratic pay-to-play campaign contributions, and revolving door power politics and get-rich-quick-at-taxpayer-expense schemes. Figuratively speaking, as governor of Texas, when the WCS owner, and a major campaign contributor to Rick Perry, said Jump!, Gov. Perry effectively said How High?! Now, as Energy Secretary, Rick Perry could well sign a contract with WCS -- still owned by Harold Simmons' family -- costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars in terms of construction and operation costs, or an unlimited amount, if something goes wrong (taxpayers would bear full liability).

Urge both your U.S. Senators to block Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary, due to such a blatant conflict of interest! Please forward this action alert far and wide!