The QueQue: Planned Parenthood hits back, Radwaste site's water risks ruled secret, Building lobby behind Build SA
Published: April 18, 2012
Patricio Gonzales, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County, said four of his branch's eight clinics shuttered last year when deep cuts to state family planning programs kicked in. "We don't provide abortions, but we do support every woman's right to make her own personal decision about health," Gonzales said. More of his clinics could close if WHP funding runs out at the end of the month, he said. The largest provider of women's health care in his region, Gonzales said, the association's clinics provide care for about 6,500 low-income women across the Rio Grande Valley.
Radwaste site's water risks ruled secret
State Representative Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, would love to spill the contents of a top-secret pile of documents he got from the state. But he can't. Stemming from a state open records request he filed in 2009, Burnam now says he has documents from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that prove serious public health and safety risks associated with the West Texas Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump built and owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons. After a two-year court battle, Burnam says a court ordered the documents released to his office as a "legislative privilege," but that he was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement with the TCEQ not to reveal the contents. Burnam's short on details, saying only that the documents show the presence of groundwater inside the facility's 100-foot buffer zone, and that they discuss the margin of safety in the event of groundwater contamination along with discussions of possible risk to the public of radiation exposure.
"Until we know the source of this water, the likelihood of groundwater contamination, and the risk to the public, it's simply irresponsible to open this site," Burnam said in a statement.
WCS is waiting for the final word from TCEQ to open up its Andrews County radwaste site to much of the nation, a decision Burnam says could come as soon as this week. Burnam insists the public should know what he knows before WCS gets the green light. On Monday Burnam sent off two letters, one to AG Greg Abbott asking he clarify whether the "top secret" information is really confidential under state law, and another to TCEQ Executive Director Mark Vickery, urging him not to give the dump final approval. "I don't think the statutory criteria for keeping these documents secret have been met, especially when you consider the very serious public health and safety implications involved," Burnam said.
WCS has been clear on its intent to make its Andrews County facility a burial site for radioactive waste from across the county. As detailed in a Bloomberg piece early this month, Simmons has even been greasing the political gears hoping to score a rule change from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to expand the definition of "low-level radioactive waste" so his site can bury waste like depleted uranium.