Partial Victory in Opposition to Ward Valley Nuclear Dump

September 5th, 2005 - by admin

Phil Klasky and Ward Young / BAN Waste Coalition – 2005-09-05 10:13:14

Due to the efforts of a coalition of Native American tribes and environmental justice groups, one of the two nominees to the Southwestern Compact Commission was defeated at confirmation hearings in Sacramento on August 31. A partial victory, but an important one.

Donna Earley and James Tripodes represent the Cal Rad Forum, the premier pro-nuclear lobby in California, and aggressively advocated for the Ward Valley dump for over a decade. Prior to their confirmation hearings, Earley pursued suing the state to force it to open a nuclear dump and Tripodes threatened to repeal laws that protect water resources from nuclear dumping.

A postcard campaign conducted by Greenaction and advocacy from groups
including the five Colorado River Indian Tribes, Clean Water Action, California Communities Against Toxics, Environmental Working Group, Environment California, Grandmothers for Peace, Center for Biological Diversity, California Peace Action, Ecological Options Network, Western States Legal Foundation, Tri-Valley Cares, Indigenous Environmental Network, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, International Indian Treaty Council, Native American Land Conservancy, 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians, Greenpeace, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Committee to Bridge the Gap, the Sierra Club and others. State Senator Sheila Kuehl was very supportive.

A delegation of the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi and Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Bay Area Nuclear (BAN) Waste Coalition, California Communities Against Toxics and Environment California visited Rules
Committee staff before the hearings to provide them with information about the nominees. KPFA provided excellent coverage (link to radio program below).

During testimony at the hearings, BAN Waste roundly criticized the nominees for their ties to industry and cover for the nuclear utilities, problematic track record, advocacy for cheap and dirty solutions to nuclear waste management, and lies.

The nominees were forced to retract their threats to sue the state, repeal the law and any pursuit of a nuclear dump at Ward Valley, and advocated for dumping out of state. Senator Bowen asked some tough questions and the nominees faltered. Bowen extracted a promise from Earley that she would not pursue suing the state.

The Rules Committee voted against Tripodes and sent Earley to the Senate for confirmation. The Compact Commission is still without full representation from California, and we sent a strong message to the industry and government that we will continue to defend our communities and oppose nuclear proliferation.

• KPFA Radio Program, August 30, 2005

Letter to Senator Don Perata
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, California 95814
June , 2005

Re: Opposition to the Nomination of Donna Early and James Tripodes to the Southwestern Compact Commission.

Dear Senator Perata:

For over a decade, local residents, scientists, tribal leaders, elected officials and environmental justice advocates opposed the proposal for a low-level radioactive waste dump at Ward Valley, California. We stand just as united today to stop any attempt to use Ward Valley for a radioactive landfill and are writing to express our opposition to the governor’s appointees to the Southwestern Compact Commission.

Any attempt to bury long-lived and highly radioactive wastes in shallow, unlined trenches above an aquifer with pathways to the Colorado River, on land sacred to the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Quechan and Colorado River Indian Trives and in an area that has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise will be met with public protest, litigation and direct action.

Governor Schwarzenegger is attempting to stack the Southwestern Compact Commission with nuclear industry lobbyists who are searching for a cheap and dirty solution to radioactive waste management for the State of California. All commercial LLRW landfills in the country are currently leaking nuclear toxins into the environment burdening their states and taxpayers with millions of dollars of clean-up costs.

The threat of a lawsuit against the state of California is an aggressive tactic that will end in failure given the volumes of scientific evidence and public resistance. The Commission should be staffed with a balance of respected stakeholders who will seek constructive solutions to the management of the state’s LLRW.

We strongly urge the Senate Rules Committee to reject the nomination
of Donna Early and James Tripodes for the Southwestern Compact Commission. We plan to attend the confirmation hearings to express our views.