(Senate - September 01, 1998)

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[Pages S9772-S9782]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           CONFERENCE REPORT

  Mr. McCONNELL. Now, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
Senate proceed as under the order to the Texas Low-Level Waste Disposal 
Compact conference report.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the clerk will 
report the conference report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       The committee on conference on the disagreeing votes of the 
     two Houses on the amendment of the Senate to the bill (H.R. 
     629) have agreed to recommend and do recommend to their 
     respective Houses this report, signed by all of the 

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the Senate will proceed to 
the consideration of the conference report.
  (The conference report is printed in the House proceedings of the 
Record of July 16, 1998.)
  Mr. ALLARD. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. I ask unanimous consent the quorum call be rescinded.
  Mr. ALLARD. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time on the conference report?
  The majority leader.
  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I yield time to myself off the time for the 
conference report and observe the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be dispensed with.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, it may be, I say to my colleagues, 
because I have friends out here on the floor and we may have some real 
disagreement on this, but I want to make sure we proceed on this 
together. I think on the order of this, the proponents might want to go 
first. That is fine with me. I want to make sure we can have one 
understanding. Before the recess, it was my understanding, albeit not a 
written contract, that we would not burn up all the time; that we would 
reserve 1 hour equally divided for tomorrow before the final vote. I 
ask unanimous consent that we at least have that final hour to be 
equally divided before the vote tomorrow.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I mention to 
the Senator from Minnesota, it is not my understanding an hour would be 
reserved. I understand most of the time will be used this evening, with 
the exception of 15 minutes to be equally divided prior to the vote 
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I say to my colleague, it is 
unfortunate that maybe there were a number of different parties 
involved in this, but I was very clear that I wanted to make sure there 
was time for this debate also tomorrow morning, not late tonight.
  I say to colleagues--it is not personal to my colleague from Maine--I 
am going to object to adjournment tonight, and Senators are going to 
have to come back here tonight at midnight and vote if I don't get a 
half an hour tomorrow. I know what was said. I know what was the 
understanding, and this is an important enough issue that tomorrow 
morning--and the other side can take a half hour, too--that we should 
have a debate. It shouldn't go from 7 o'clock now until 10 o'clock, 
time is burned off, no time to discuss this tomorrow morning, and then 
there is a vote. I think that is unacceptable.
  I guess we are starting the debate off in the wrong way. In all due 
respect, a lot of the decisions made on this matter have been made kind 
of in the dark of night in the conference committee. I want part of 
this debate to be open. I want Senators to be aware of this. I want the 
public to be aware of it.
  I renew my request one more time just so I know where I am at 
tonight. I ask unanimous consent that we have an hour equally divided 
tomorrow morning before final vote.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, it may well 
have been the understanding of the Senator from Minnesota that an hour 
would be set aside. That was not my understanding in terms of how this 
time would be divided, other than to say that most of the time was to 
be used this evening, with the exception of 15 minutes to be equally 
divided tomorrow.
  I will agree to half an hour equally divided, if that will 
accommodate the Senator from Minnesota. But I, and I think the others 
involved in this debate, prefer to do most of the debate this evening. 
That was our understanding.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I say to my colleague, I am going to 
stick to this because this is, I think, an important issue. It takes 
time to lay out the context and the background. I know the way it works 
here. This now has been put off close to 7 o'clock. I understand that. 
I just think that 15 minutes is not a lot of time to go into the 
complexity of this. I know at least what was my understanding, and I 
say to my colleague from Maine, this was not a direct conversation with 
her. In no way, shape, or form am I trying to say she had implied 
  I am going to be firm about this. Perhaps we could--and I wouldn't be 
totally satisfied with it--but perhaps we could save colleagues some 
trouble and

[[Page S9773]]

do 40 minutes equally divided. I ask unanimous consent that there be 40 
minutes, 20 minutes on each side, so colleagues don't have to come back 
tonight and vote at midnight.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Do my colleagues want to proceed first? I say to the 
Senator from Maine, would you like to proceed first?
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, yes, I will proceed first. I won't be very 
long, and then both Senators from Vermont are here this evening as 
well. I am willing to go first in this debate.
  I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized for the time she may 
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I say to the Members of the Senate, I rise 
today to ask for my colleagues' support for the conference report on 
H.R. 629, the Texas Compact Consent Act of 1998, which reflects the 
original language ratified by the States of Maine, Vermont, and Texas 
to address the safe disposal of their low-level radioactive nuclear 
waste. The 1980 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act states that it 
is the policy of the United States that each State is responsible for 
providing for the availability of disposal capacity, whether in State 
or out of State, for waste generated within its borders, and the act 
authorized interstate compacts as a principal means of providing for 
this capacity.

  The policy was reinforced in the 1985 amendments to the act. The 
States of Maine, Vermont, and Texas are now approaching the end of a 
long journey that started in 1980 when Congress informed the States to 
form compacts to solve their low-level radioactive waste disposal 
  My first chart shows the extent of the nine compact networks that 
have already been ratified by Congress. California, for instance, has 
had a compact with North and South Dakota, and Hawaii and Alaska ship 
their low-level waste to Washington State.
  This chart designates all of the nine previous compacts that have 
been established with the various States across this country. As you 
can see in the second chart with the list of States in the compact, Mr. 
President, when we adopted this report, Texas, Maine, and Vermont will 
become the 42nd, 43rd, and 44th States to be given congressional 
approval to enter into a compact and will meet their responsibilities 
of disposal of their low-level waste from hospitals, medical centers, 
powerplants, and shipyards. We will be the 10th compact to receive the 
consent of the U.S. Congress. Only 6 States out of 50 will not yet have 
formed a compact with other States.
  Again, in referring to this chart, it shows that 41 States have 
entered into nine different compacts, all of which have been ratified 
by the Congress in previous years. So this compact is not unlike any of 
the other nine previous compacts that have been adopted by the U.S. 
  It is very important for my colleagues to understand that the 
language ratified overwhelmingly by each State legislature is the same 
language that has been passed by the conferees, so that the compact 
will not have to be returned to each State to go through a 
reratification process that would, in all practicality, as well as 
reality, take several more years.
  The compact that is before the Senate has been approved by large 
majorities in all three State legislatures. The Texas Senate approved 
the compact in May of 1993 with a vote of 28-0, and by a voice vote in 
the Texas House of Representatives. Governor Ann Richards at the time 
signed the compact. The compact is supported by the current Governor, 
Governor George Bush.
  The Vermont House voice voted the compact in March of 1994, and the 
Vermont Senate voice voted the compact in April of 1994. Governor 
Howard Dean signed the compact.
  The Maine Legislature approved the compact in June of 1993, by a 
house vote of 131 yeas to 6 nays, and a senate vote of 26 yeas and 3 
  Additionally, Maine held a public referendum on the compact in 
November of 1993, which passed by 73 percent. Then-Governor John 
McKernan signed the compact. Today it is supported as well by the 
current Governor, Angus King.
  As Congress intended in the original law, the Low-Level Radioactive 
Waste Disposal Act of 1980, and in amendments enacted in 1985 by the 
Congress, the Texas Compact is site neutral. Site location questions 
are the exclusive purview of the State of Texas and can only be 
addressed through Texas political and regulatory processes. The chosen 
site must, of course, meet Federal environmental, public health and 
safety laws. To date, no site location has been finalized. No license 
has been granted.
  The compact does not determine who pays what, how the storage is 
allocated, or where the site is located. To the contrary, the intent of 
the law is for the States to develop and approve and finalize these 
details after Congress has ratified the plan.
  The compact is only an interstate agreement providing the terms under 
which Maine and Vermont can dispose of their waste at a licensed 
facility in Texas, irrespective of where that facility is located. As 
we all know, there has been a proposed site.
  As to the statements by the opponents and by the Senator from 
Minnesota that there is no local support for the proposed site, all I 
can say is that earlier this year local support was certainly evidenced 
through local elections that were held in Texas. The Hudspeth County 
judge, who is the top elected official in the county where the site has 
been proposed, and who has strongly declared his support for the 
compact, won his race for reelection. This was an issue in his 
reelection, and the elections at the local level in this county.
  Two candidates for county commissioner who also support the compact 
won their races over two opponents of the compact. And a local 
individual in opposition to the compact was the only person on the 
ballot for Democratic Party Chair, and he lost to a write-in candidate.
  In an August 25 letter, a top-elected official from Hudspeth, Judge 
Peace, stated: ``The truth is the socioeconomic benefits for the 
residents of Sierra Blanca are enormous and overwhelmingly positive.''
  Judge Peace also says, ``I want you to know that the majority of 
citizens favor the development of such a facility.'' Further, he says, 
``The people of Sierra Blanca and Hudspeth County voiced their opinions 
for a better future and tangible real life advances that will make our 
communities more livable.''
  There is a grave concern in Maine and Vermont and Texas that there 
are some in Congress who want to add stipulations on to the Texas 
Compact that no other compact has had to endure. And that would be 
action that would discriminate against these three States.

  Again, as I mentioned earlier, there have been nine previous 
compacts. Not one of them have had any conditions or stipulations as 
the ones that have been suggested by the Senator from Minnesota and 
others--none. And the compact is site neutral because that is a 
decision that has to be made by the State that will have the proposed 
facility. That, of course, is the State of Texas--but all consistent 
with the environmental and safety and health guidelines, not only at 
the Federal level, but at the State and the local level as well. This 
is not irrespective; it is not overriding those concerns.
  In fact, the conference report and the statute that is being proposed 
before the Senate is very clear that they have to follow specific and 
certain guidelines. So that is the environmental justice that we are 
pursuing. No one is saying to override environmental justice principles 
or regulations--absolutely not. That is for the State in question. I 
have faith and confidence in the State of Texas and the elected 
officials and other officials involved in this procedural approach in 
determining where the proposed site should be located. But that is a 
judgment that has to be made by the State of Texas and consistent with 
their laws, and Federal laws as well.
  I might add that Senator Wellstone's own State of Minnesota is 
already part of a compact that was ratified by Congress. And like all 
the other compacts that Congress has approved, Congress made no changes 
or added any conditions or stipulations to that compact. There again, 
it was a decision made by the State who is going

[[Page S9774]]

to have the facilities, but again in keeping with Federal environmental 
and health and safety regulations, as well as the State and local 
  With congressional ratification of H.R. 629 and the conference report 
that is before us today, Texas will move forward to select an 
appropriate site for the disposal facility in a timely manner, most 
importantly, consistent with all of the applicable State and Federal 
environmental, health and public safety laws, as I have already 
mentioned. It has always been the decision of the State of Texas as to 
where the facility will be sited. And it is not within the purview of 
the U.S. Senate to decide for them. And I applaud the conferees in 
their judgment of passing out a conference report with the original 
language ratified by Maine, Vermont and the State of Texas.
  Without the protection of the compact, Texas will be compelled to--
and I repeat, compelled to--open their borders to any other State for 
waste disposal if they decide to create a new facility or they will be 
in violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States 
Constitution. This compact will protect Texas' right to decide what is 
best for the State of Texas. The State will be able to construct a 
single engineered facility for storing and management of all of its 
low-level waste rather than its current situation illustrated again on 
this chart in which 684 temporary storage sites are strewn far and wide 
across the State. Again, it shows in this chart 684 different 
facilities across the State of Texas.
  This compact will allow them to consolidate into one facility. But if 
the Congress did not approve this compact, and the State of Texas 
wanted to go ahead and develop a new site, they would be required, 
without this compact, to open up their facility to all of the other 
States in the country for the transport of low-level radioactive waste. 
So that is why the State of Texas wants this compact, because then they 
would only be accepting waste from the State of Vermont and the State 
of Maine.
  Texas Compact members will now be able to exercise appropriate, 
responsible control of their low-level nuclear waste as Congress has 
  I would like to put into the Record the entire letter that I received 
from the Organizations United for Responsible Low-Level Radioactive 
Waste Solutions--a coalition made up of such organizations as the 
American Society of Nuclear Physicians, the American Heart Association, 
and the National Association of Cancer Patients--who are dedicated to 
socially, environmentally, technically and economically responsible 
solutions to low-level waste disposal. I would like to quote one of 
their lines within the letter that I think speaks to this issue.

       Please support the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
     Disposal Compact bill which will allow the continued use of 
     low-level radioactive materials that provide critical health, 
     environmental, and safety benefits to millions of Americans.

  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have the entire letter 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                         Organizations United,

                                    Washington, DC, July 29, 1998.
     Senator Olympia J. Snowe,
     U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Snowe: As you consider approving the 
     conference report on the Texas Compact legislation, you must 
     also consider the life-saving and life-extending medical 
     benefits which result from usage of radioisotopes. Such 
     benefits--prevention and treatment of cancer tumors, research 
     for a cure for AIDS, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid 
     disorders, study of lung ventilation and blood flow--require 
     responsible management and disposal of low-level radioactive 
     waste to ensure their continued operation. Without 
     ratification of the Texas-Maine-Vermont Compact and 
     subsequent selection and development of a disposal site, the 
     public will suffer a loss of these type of benefits because 
     of the lack of a disposal facility.
       Approval of the conference report and support for the Texas 
     Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact bill will ensure 
     that important medical research and electrical processes can 
     continue to benefit the nation and groups like Organizations 
     United whose members include associations representing 
     doctors, electric utilities, universities, and other 
       Another important piece of the proposed bill to remember is 
     that it does not designate a disposal site for low-level 
     radioactive waste; only the state of Texas has the authority 
     to approve a site. Texas has not made a final decision on 
     where the facility should be located. So, you will be voting 
     for the compact, which all three states negotiated in full 
     compliance with all federal and state laws and with full 
     support of their leaders, and not a particular site.
       Please support the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
     Disposal Compact bill which will allow the continued use of 
     low-level radioactive materials that provide critical health, 
     environmental, and safety benefits to millions of Americans.
                                         Robert F. Carretta, M.D.,

  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, to sum up this issue, first and foremost, I 
think we need to understand that most other States have already entered 
into compacts that have been ratified by the Congress. In fact, 41 
States already have compacts. The same compact that we are asking for 
support here in the U.S. Senate has been already adopted by the House 
of Representatives by an overwhelming margin. It has been supported by 
the conferees of both the House and the Senate.
  I urge my colleagues to support this conference report that allows 
these three States to enter into a compact that is consistent with the 
mandates of the laws that have been passed by the Congress both in 
1980, with the original act instructing the States that they must make 
decisions with respect to the disposal of low-level radioactive waste, 
and consistent with the amendments to that act in 1985.
  This compact is in keeping with the spirit and intent of those 
  Mr. WELLSTONE addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Allard). The Senator from Maine still has 
the floor. Does the Senator yield?
  Ms. SNOWE. Well, Mr. President, I was going to yield to the Senator 
from Vermont.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. I understand. I gather my colleague doesn't need a lot 
of time. I ask unanimous consent that I may follow the Senator from 
Vermont. There is much that my colleague said that I want to respond 
to, but I will wait.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. JEFFORDS. Mr. President, this is always a very difficult subject 
when we talk about nuclear waste. We all have a fear of nuclear waste 
and the thought of radiation emanating from the ground in our 
neighborhoods or visions of trucks driving down from Maine and Vermont 
and dumping waste into the fields of Texas. That is sometimes what is 
described. But we are talking here about a well-conceived law which has 
set out a process for low-level waste.
  What is low-level waste? Well, it is the gloves that come from the 
workers in the atomic energy plants. It may be waste from the 
utilization of radioactive materials in our hospitals. It is not the 
large nuclear rods that we are trying desperately to put somewhere. We 
are talking about something that is easily controllable. One would 
certainly ask this question: If there is so much problem, how come all 
the people in the area are voting and saying, yes, yes, bring it down? 
Why? Because there is a price tag to those States that have the waste.
  Vermont and Maine are not very big States. We are going to be 
spending $25 million sending it down, with other payments later, and 
creating a facility in this area that will provide jobs and economic 
help to an area that right now is very low income, with no real 
productivity or resources. So they will have an opportunity to benefit 
very substantially--maybe build a new school, or other things--which 
would not happen were it not for this compact. Also, we know well now 
how we can control the nuclear waste from facilities that have low-
level waste. We know what to do with the high-level waste, but we just 
can't get the States to come around to accepting it. That is a problem 
for the future. Right now we are talking about low-level waste.
  The compact has the support of the Governors and the State 
legislatures of Texas, Vermont and Maine. Passage of this compact will 
allow these States to responsibly manage low-level waste produced by 
hospitals, power plants, industrial facilities, and medical research 
laboratories in our State where we do not have a place to do this, and 
it creates a danger. Whereas, if it is shipped and properly handled and 
placed in areas where there is no chance to get into the groundwater 

[[Page S9775]]

all these things we have to worry about in our State, it can only 
benefit those, and especially in providing schools and other things.
  We come to the floor today asking that our states be given the same 
rights as forty-one other states. In 1980, and again in 1985, Congress 
declared that states must provide for the disposal of commercial low-
level radioactive waste. Forty-one states have responded affirmatively 
to that mandate and formed nine regional compacts.
  These nine compacts have been approved unanimously by the Senate, 
without amendment, and signed into law. We ask for nothing more than 
what Congress has already given these forty-one other states.
  This compact, like the nine others that precede it, took years of 
negotiating among the states. The Vermont legislature and the Governor 
carefully reviewed each provision before approval. In fact in 1990, 
under the leadership of then-Governor Madeline Kunin, the State of 
Vermont began a study to find a suitable site for a disposal facility 
in Vermont. After two years of exhaustive review, the State determined 
that a safe site could not be found in Vermont.
  It is understandable that we can't bury things. We have water that 
flows down on us and runs off. It is no place to handle this kind of 
  The agreement Vermont and Maine have reached with Texas is the best 
option for safe disposal. In fact, the compact we are debating requires 
that it is the policy of the party states to cooperate in the 
protection of the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and the 
  We are here today because one Senator is questioning the science used 
to find a safe and suitable site for disposal of this waste. I commend 
him for questioning this, and I am glad we are having this debate, 
because people should be reassured and should know what happens in 
these cases.
  After the compact was signed into law by then-Governor Ann Richards, 
the State of Texas launched a rigorous process to assure that the site 
licensed to accept this waste would be safe. Prior to selecting the 
proposed site, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission spent 
four years reviewing the site before issuing a draft license and 
environmental assessment.
  Although this compact does not specify a site for the Texas waste 
facility, I trust that the State of Texas has used and will continue to 
use strict scientific criteria in selecting a disposal site.
  This compact has strong bipartisan support. The consent legislation 
was reported out of both the House Commerce Committee and the Senate 
Judiciary Committee without amendment and without opposition.
  The Texas Compact was adopted by the House by a vote of 309 to 107. 
In the Senate it passed with unanimous support. Moreover, the Texas 
legislature, the Maine legislature, and the Vermont legislature 
approved the compact.
  Mr. President, we should continue to work together in a bipartisan 
manner and pass this compact.
  Let's ensure that institutions in Maine, Texas, Vermont and all 
across the United States have access to safe disposal sites for low-
level radioactive waste.
  Let's treat this compact just like we have treated all of the other 
nine. This compact is not about the virtues or vices of nuclear power, 
industrial development or cancer research, it is about the safe 
disposal of low-level waste.
  Let's pass this compact.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota is recognized.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, I think my colleague from Vermont has 
been on the floor a long time today. He said he needed a brief period 
of time. If I could take a minute--and only a minute, I say to my 
colleague from Vermont, whom I appreciate as a real friend here, I will 
talk about the actual sites, Hudspeth and Sierra Blanca, and how this 
is all taking place.
  This is an issue of environmental justice. But this nuclear waste is 
not just gloves and medical waste. My colleague talked about that. 
Ninety-nine percent of this low-level radioactive waste in Maine and 
Vermont will come from nuclear reactors. Let's just be clear about 
  Second of all, the distinction between low-level and high-level--I 
will read from a GAO report of this year.

       Any radioactive waste that are not high-level are low-
     level, and as a result, low-level radioactive waste 
     constitute a very broad category containing many different 
     types and concentrations of radio nuclei, including the same 
     radio nuclei that may be found in high-level radioactive 

  This is an artificial distinction. It is not just medical waste. It 
sounds better when we talk about booties and gloves. Low-level waste 
constitutes all of the same public health concerns to the people who 
live in Sierra Blanca. I want to be clear about that.
  I ask my colleague from Vermont, how much time does he think he will 
  Mr. LEAHY. Six or seven minutes.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. I ask unanimous consent that after my colleague uses 
his time, I be able to follow.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The Chair recognizes the Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, thank you. I thank my colleague from 
  Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Texas Low-Level Nuclear 
Waste Compact. This legislation was originally introduced in the 103rd 
Congress and is long overdue.
  Although this legislation is fairly simple on its face, merely 
approving a Compact already agreed to by each of the party states, many 
issues have arisen along the way to complicate the approval of the 
  We have before us the Conference Report to the Compact that works out 
these issues. This Conference Report insures that the will of the party 
states is followed.
  When Congress passed the 1980 Low-Level Nuclear Waste Policy Act, we 
handed over to states the responsibility of low-level waste disposal 
and encouraged them to enter into compacts to provide disposal on a 
collective basis.
  Nine of these compacts have already been approved by Congress. In 
this case, the states of Vermont, Maine and Texas negotiated the terms 
of their Compact, all three states approved the Compact and all three 
governors have urged Congress to ratify it.
  Approval of this Compact will give these states final resolution of 
the problem they increasingly face in disposing of their nuclear waste.
  In Vermont, we began this process almost ten years ago. Following the 
direction of Congress, Vermont began looking for an in-state depository 
location. In 1990, former Governor Kunin created the Vermont Low-Level 
Radioactive Waste Authority to determine if there was a suitable site 
for a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Vermont.
  Over the next two years the Authority spent approximately $5 million 
evaluating numerous sites in our state. In particular, the Authority 
examined the potential for a site next to Vermont Yankee in Vernon, 
Vermont. The site was found to have extremely unfavorable geological 
conditions for a storage facility.
  The combination of porous soil, a high groundwater table, a wet 
climate and proximity to the Connecticut River made such a site too 
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
a letter from the Public Service Board of the State of Vermont 
outlining the process we went through to find a site within our 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                                 State of Vermont,

                                 Department of Public Service,

                                    Montpelier, VT, July 15, 1998.
     Re low level waste activities in Vermont.

     Hon. Patrick Leahy,
     U.S. Senator,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Leahy: The purpose of this letter is to 
     provide you with: (1) information about Vermont's efforts to 
     site a low level radioactive waste storage facility in 
     Vermont; (2) information on why Vermont cannot rely on the 
     low level radioactive waste storage facility in Barnwell, 
     South Carolina to accept future shipments of low level waste 
     from Vermont; and (3) the reasons why I believe that the 
     Texas Compact is the best option for long term storage of 
     Vermont's low level waste.
       In 1990, Governor Kunin signed the law which created 
     Vermont's Low Level Radioactive Waste Authority (``the 

[[Page S9776]]

     This followed the inconclusive efforts over the course of 
     some years of the Vermont Low Level Radioactive Waste 
       Among other things, the Authority was charged with 
     determining if there was a suitable site for a low level 
     radioactive waste storage facility in Vermont. Over the next 
     two years the Authority spent approximately $5 million 
     evaluating numerous prospective sites in the state.
       A site next to Vermont Yankee was evaluated in depth. This 
     site was found to have extremely unfavorable geological 
     conditions. Specifically, groundwater was very close to the 
     surface and the underlying soil was comprised primarily of 
     porous sand and gravel with short transit times to the 
     Connecticut River. These conditions, in combination with 
     Vermont's wet climate, would permit rapid migration of any 
     materials leaking from a waste storage facility into the 
     Connecticut River.
       Following the abandonment of Vermont Yankee as a storage 
     site, the Authority embarked on a voluntary siting process. 
     Initial interest in several towns waned quickly as groups 
     opposing nuclear power activated local opposition. It was the 
     opinion of those working in the low level radioactive waste 
     are that a facility could not be sited in Vermont.
       Past experience with the existing low level radioactive 
     waste storage facility in Barnwell, South Carolina, has 
     demonstrated its unsuitability for Vermont's future low level 
     waste storage needs. It appears that while storage space at 
     Barnwell is adequate for some time, the continued operation 
     of the site is questionable due to possible changes in 
     political leadership in South Carolina. We believe that it is 
     possible that the Barnwell facility could close if the 
     current Republican administration in South Carolina were 
     replaced by a Democratic governor. If Barnwell remains open, 
     costs for storage are uncertain and will likely be higher. 
     South Carolina has an expectation of deriving a certain level 
     of funds for state education needs from Barnwell storage 
     fees. This amount of funding has not been met resulting in a 
     current crisis over continued Barnwell operations.
       I expect that disposal in the Texas Compact will be less 
     expensive than other options, even considering the $25 
     million cost for Vermont's participation. At current levels, 
     Barnwell's cost of approximately $400 per cubic foot is 
     higher than Texas' projected cost of between $118 and $275 
     per cubic foot. While it is likely that both cost figures 
     will rise, I expect Texas to remain less expensive.
       Not only is Barnwell more expensive than the Texas site, 
     but it also appears that Barnwell is refusing to accept the 
     internal components of commercial nuclear reactors that have 
     recently retired in the United States. This could be 
     especially troublesome for Vermont when Vermont Yankee ceases 
     operations because of the relative volume of these 
       Vermont has attempted an in-state siting process and found 
     that siting in Vermont would be difficult if not impossible. 
     The uncertainty regarding the price and the availability of 
     the Barnwell site make it an undesirable choice for Vermont's 
     long term low waste storage needs. In summary, I believe that 
     after careful consideration of both environmental and 
     economic considerations that the Texas facility is the best 
     option for Vermont's long term, low level waste storage 
     needs. Please contact me if you would require additional 
                                                   Richard Sedano,

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, some critics of this Compact argue that the 
waste should be stored where it is generated. Although this argument is 
nobly egalitarian, it is not practical nor is it safe.
  We cannot control the rainfall in Vermont. We cannot change the 
density of our soil. And we cannot move the people of Vernon out of the 
area to meet the criteria of a safe disposal site. So, Vermont had to 
look somewhere else.
  Under this Compact, Texas has agreed to be the host for the disposal 
site. The Compact does not name a specific site. That is an issue to be 
decided by the people of Texas, as it should be.
  Every other compact approved by Congress gives the host state the 
right to choose where the disposal facility is sited, according to the 
laws and regulations of that state. The same is true for this Compact.
  Mr. President, I want to take a minute to talk about the process 
undertaken by Texas to site this storage facility. In 1991, the Texas 
legislature adopted legislation designating an area of 400 square miles 
(256,000 acres) in which the Texas Low-Level Authority was required to 
select a proposed site.
  After performing site screening in the area defined by the 
legislature, the Texas Authority identified a 16,000-acre tract for 
further analysis, of which 1,300-acres would be used for the proposed 
site. Texas undertook a siting and licensing process similar to the 
federal National Environmental Policy (NEPA) process, which included 
numerous public hearings and technical and environmental reviews.
  This process was recently reviewed by the two administrative law 
judges from the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings, who 
recommended the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission conduct 
additional analysis before the facility is licensed. The Governor and 
the State Legislature set up a process to select a site, which should 
be allowed to more forward.
  Congress should not put special restrictions on this Compact simply 
because Texas is exercising its rights as the host state to determine 
where the facility will be located.
  This Compact also allows the states of Vermont, Maine and Texas to 
refuse waste from other states. Specifically, Texas will be able to 
limit the amount of low-level waste coming into its facility from out-
of-state sources.
  As stated by the Governors of Vermont, Maine and Texas in a letter to 
the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, 1998, ``If the facility opens 
without a Compact in place, Texas will be subject to accepting waste 
from around the country, and Maine and Vermont will not be guaranteed 
any storage space at the facility.'' Under the Compact, there is a 
controlled process for transporting and disposing of the waste at the 
facility. Without the Compact, that process evaporates.
  This arrangement is not only the best environmental solution to store 
waste from our three states, it is also the best economic solution. 
Maine and Vermont together produce a fraction of what is generated in 
Texas, but by entering into this Compact we will share the cost of 
building the facility.
  Right now, Vermont pays approximately $400 per cubic foot to dispose 
of our waste. Disposal at the Texas facility will cost only about $200 
per cubic foot. If the Compact is not approved, it is the ratepayers of 
Vermont, Texas and Maine who will have to pay the extra cost of 
  Finally, building the facility does not end Vermont's obligation to 
the safety of this site. We have a long-term commitment to the site, 
from ensuring that the facility meets all of the federal construction 
and operating regulations to making sure the waste is transported 
properly to the site and that the surrounding area is rigorously 
monitored. Vermont will not send its waste to Texas and then close its 
eyes to the rest of the process.
  I can assure you that Vermont will not send nuclear waste to Texas 
and then close its eyes to the rest of the process. We are just not 
going to do that. We are not a State that would do that.
  Some might want to say it would be nice if we had no more nuclear 
waste. Unfortunately, we will. We will continue to have it. And we will 
still have to dispose of it.
  I think we all recognize that there was no perfect solution for 
dealing with low-level nuclear waste.
  But as long as we are generating power from nuclear facilities and as 
long as our research universities, hospitals and laboratories use 
nuclear materials, we are going to have to dispose of the waste.
  We cannot continue to ignore the need to safely store nuclear waste. 
To do so would be to ignore the growing environmental problem of 
storing this waste at inadequate, temporary sites in Vermont, Maine and 
  Instead, we need to make a commitment to developing and building the 
safest facility for long-term storage of waste. That is what our States 
have done, and Congress should not stand in their way.
  Mr. WELLSTONE addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, let me start out by saying to my 
colleague from Vermont that this debate is not about suggesting that a 
dump has to be built in the Northeast. That is not what this debate is 
about. I say that to my colleague from Maine. No one has ever suggested 
  Let me also say that I have to smile as I hear my colleagues say that 
we need this compact to provide people in Texas with the guarantee that 
their dump won't become a depository, a national depository for waste. 
If there is no dump, they don't need the protection. This is an 
interesting argument--we have to have a compact--which, by

[[Page S9777]]

the way, I don't think holds up under scrutiny. I will talk about that 
in a moment. We have to have a compact in order to give people in 
Texas--it is really in their self-interest. This compact will provide 
them with some protection that they won't have nuclear waste coming 
into their State from all over the country. By definition, if the dump 
isn't built, if the compact doesn't go through, then there won't be any 
nuclear waste dump, and, therefore, people in Texas won't have to worry 
about that protection. It is just a curious argument that caught my 
  Mr. President, I want to say at the beginning that I rise to speak 
with as much passion and as much evidence that I can marshal as 
possible against this conference report, H.R. 629, the Texas, Maine, 
and Vermont compact, which will result in the dumping of low-level 
radioactive waste from Texas, Maine, and Vermont, and potentially other 
States and territories, at a dump located in Texas. The dump is 
expected to be built near the town of Sierra Blanca in Hudspeth County 
where 66 percent of the residents are Latino and 39 percent live below 
the poverty line. Let's not be fooling anybody. Here is what happened. 
This is what we have to vote on one way or another.
  In Texas, the decision has to be made. Where are you going to put a 
nuclear waste dump site? Not surprisingly, when you have a former 
Governor here, or someone else living in another community who is 
politically connected there, none of those sites is considered. 
Instead, what we come up with--I will go through the whole history of 
this--is Sierra Blanca, Hudspeth County. This happens to be a community 
that is disproportionately Hispanic and disproportionately poor. And 
that is why this is a civil rights issue. That is why, colleagues, a 
lot of organizations--Latino and Latina--and a lot of environmental 
organizations are on record against this compact.
  This is going the path of least political resistance. That is what 
this is about.
  This is an issue of environmental justice. It is the business of all 
of us in the U.S. Senate, because we have to vote for or against this 
  All of a sudden--I will get to this a little later on as well--some 
administrative law judges take a look at this, and they say, ``You know 
what? This might not be a good idea because this is a geologically 
active area.'' That is a euphemism for an earthquake area. That is 
true. They have said that. But the problem is that the members of the 
commission in Texas that has made the decision are the Governor's 
appointees, and they don't have to listen to what these administrative 
law judges have said. And the executive director of this commission has 
made it clear that he won't. The Governor has made it clear that he is 
going forward with this.
  But what we have here is an interesting game. No wonder people get 
angry about politics. What the State of Texas is saying is: Let's just 
put it off and not make the final decision though we know what the 
final decision is. We are going to locate this in a community where you 
have poor people and Hispanic people living. But we will not do that 
right away. Instead, we say we really haven't decided, and therefore we 
can get people in the Senate and the House of Representatives, we can 
give them cover, and they can say, ``Oh, no, this isn't about 
environmental justice because they haven't selected the site.''
  I will go through this in a moment. That is an absolute sham. That is 
just a sham.
  Mr. President, let me be real clear about this. The area that is 
chosen in Texas, not surprisingly, because this is apparent all around 
the country--poor people always take it on the chin. The communities of 
color always take it on the chin. Where are you going to put an 
incinerator? Where are you going to put a waste dump site? It is never 
in our backyard.
  I would like to know whether any Senator has ever had a nuclear waste 
dump site proposed in his or her backyard or his or her community. And 
while I have not taken the survey, I bet the answer is not one.
  This has to stop. This is an issue of environmental justice. That is 
why we are not just going to talk about this tonight. We are going to 
talk about this tomorrow, regardless of what the vote is.
  Mr. President, here is what is really troubling about this process. 
We have been through this over a period of a year. It has been kind of 
one-sided, I say to my colleague in the Chair. It has been sort of like 
you have people--we have some people here tonight from Hudspeth County. 
We have people from other communities. We have some State legislators. 
We have people from the community. But you know what, they get to come 
up like once a year maybe. It is a long trip, costs a lot of money. But 
at the same time the utility industry--this isn't about States rights. 
This is about the utility industry, what the nuclear power industry 
wants, what the energy industry wants, what the big contributors want 
as opposed to the people who live in this community who have precious 
little by way of campaign contributions they can make. This is tied to 
reform and precious little clout, except this little community has been 
fighting hard for a year.
  So what happened here? I came to the floor of the Senate twice and my 
colleagues agreed. I didn't hear anybody dissent. There was unanimous 
consent. Twice I came to the floor of the Senate with amendments. One 
amendment said let's make it clear that this nuclear waste can only 
come from Maine, Vermont and Texas. That is what we say it is about. So 
let's codify that. That amendment was passed in the House of 
Representatives as well.
  The other amendment said if the people of Hudspeth County, as they 
seek redress of grievance, can show that they have been 
disproportionately targeted because they are Latina, Latino or poor, 
they should at least have the right to challenge this in court. And my 
colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, supported these 
  That is exactly what happens when an amendment passes on the floor of 
the Senate with unanimous consent. But then what do they do? They rely 
on the conference committee. I am starting to believe in a unicameral 
legislature, I really am, because I think the conference committee is 
the third house of the Congress and there is no accountability. This 
conference committee meets sometime, I don't know, 2 a.m., 1 a.m., 
sometime in the dark of night. Who knows when. And they just bulldoze 
right through and they knock out both amendments. The Senate is on 
record twice, first of all, voting for the amendments and then 
instructions to the conferees to honor the Senate's position.
  Colleagues, they took those amendments out. And when you vote 
tomorrow, please, remember the Latina and Latino community, please 
remember the organizations, remember the environmental organizations, 
and other organizations I am going to refer to because they are going 
to be watching our vote.
  Now, it would have been one thing if those amendments had stayed in. 
I think you would have had more support for this compact, or at least 
people could have said, well, you know what, at least now we know we 
are not going to get the shaft at least in one sense. People wouldn't 
have wanted it in their community, nor would the Presiding Officer, nor 
would my colleague from Maine, nor would any Senator here. No Senator 
here would want this waste dump site in their backyard, not one 
Senator, but it at least would have made this political process look a 
little bit more open and maybe a little fairer to people, if we had 
kept the amendments in.

  But, oh, no, the conference committee meets somewhere, sometime and 
takes them out. So I will tell you, this compact should be defeated.
  Now, the construction of this nuclear dump in this community raises 
important questions of environmental justice. This might be the first 
time in the history of the Senate we have had a debate about 
environmental justice in the Chamber. It is not just the fight for the 
people of Sierra Blanca or Hudspeth County or west Texas, for that 
matter. This is a fight for communities all across the country that 
don't have the political clout, that aren't the well heeled, that 
aren't the well connected, that aren't the investors, that aren't the 
big contributors, and all too often over and over again they are the 
ones we dump these sites on. This is a fight for poor people and poor 
communities that are rarely consulted.

[[Page S9778]]

  This is a fight for people who are seen not as people who should have 
some say about their environment and their lives but as victims to be 
preyed upon because they are least able to defend themselves. Except 
the communities of Hudspeth County, Sierra Blanca, they have made it 
clear they are not victims. They have made it clear they are women and 
men of worth and dignity and substance, and they have been fighting 
  Environmental justice, colleagues, is a difficult issue. Too often 
legislators and Government officials hide behind the excuse that there 
is nothing we can do about it, that discrimination results from 
decisions that are made in the private sector, that it is a matter of 
State or local responsibility, that it is too hard to prove. Well, this 
case is pretty easy. The dump won't be built if we reject this compact. 
We have a direct responsibility. There is a direct Federal role. We 
cannot wash our hands of this. We cannot go away and pretend that we 
are not to blame. We are all responsible, and it is up to each and 
every one of us to take a stand.
  Let me go over some of the arguments. Argument No. 1: The Texas 
Compact raises troubling issues of environmental justice. There is a 
well-documented tendency for pollution and waste dump sites to be sited 
in poor minority communities that lack the political power to keep them 
out. In this case, the Texas Legislature selected Hudspeth County and 
the Texas Waste Authority selected the Sierra Blanca site after the 
Authority, after the Authority's scoping study had already ruled out 
Sierra Blanca as scientifically unsuitable.
  Did you get that? Did you get that, colleagues, or staff, that are 
following this debate? The Texas Waste Authority selected the Sierra 
Blanca site after the Authority's own scoping study had already ruled 
out Sierra Blanca as scientifically unsuitable. Communities near the 
study's preferred sites had enough political clout to keep the dump out 
but Sierra Blanca, already the site of the largest sewage sludge 
project in the country, was not so fortunate.
  There you go. There is the calculus. You have this poor Hispanic 
community. They have the largest sewage sludge project in the country. 
Why not just build a nuclear waste dump site there as well? Sierra 
Blanca is a low-income, Mexican-American community. Over 66 percent of 
the citizens of Sierra Blanca are Mexican-American and many do not 
speak English. About 39 percent live below the poverty line. Hudspeth 
County is one of the poorest and most heavily Latino areas of Texas. 
Under the Texas government code, Sierra Blanca is legally classified as 
a ``colonia,'' which is an economically distressed area within 150 
miles of the Mexican border that possesses inadequate water and sewer 
services, and this is the community that has been targeted for this 
nuclear waste dump site.
  Sierra Blanca is already the site of the largest sewage sludge 
project in the country, and the Environmental Protection Improvement 
Corporation is now asking the Texas environmental agency for a license 
for yet another sewage sludge project east of Sierra Blanca.
  Now, I ask my colleagues, I ask the Presiding Officer, if you had the 
largest sewage sludge project in your community, you are now targeted 
for another one, and on top of that you would have a nuclear waste dump 
site also in your community, even though it is a geologically unstable 
community, earthquake area, would you not have some questions about 
  I heard my colleagues say somewhere that a judge had won an election 
and, therefore, oh, no, the people there really want it. Look, why 
don't we just think about this for a moment? Do you really believe 
that? Do you really believe that? Do you really believe the people in 
any of the communities that we represent would really want a nuclear 
waste dump site where they live, on top of the largest sewage sludge 
project in the country? Do you believe that?
  Mr. President, 20 surrounding counties and 13 nearby cities have 
passed resolutions against it and no city or county in west Texas 
supports it. I hear one person is elect and that is used as the basis 
for arguing that the people in the community want it? Give me a break. 
Give me a break. Mr. President, 20 surrounding counties and 13 nearby 
cities have passed resolutions against it and no city or county in west 
Texas supports it. Over 800 adult residents of Sierra Blanca have 
signed petitions opposing the dump, and a 1992 poll commissioned by the 
Texas Waste Authority showed that 66 percent of the people in Hudspeth 
and Culberson Counties were in opposition. Republican Congressman 
Bonilla, who represents Hudspeth County, and Democratic Congressman 
Ciro Rodriguez, who represent neighboring El Paso and San Antonio, have 
all actively opposed the Sierra Blanca dump. And we are being told the 
people support it?
  In an October 1994 statewide poll, 82 percent of Texans were against 
it--82 percent. Earlier this month, 1,500 U.S. and Mexican citizens, 
including Texas State Representatives and Senators and Representatives 
from Mexico, marched from the Mexican border to Sierra Blanca, through 
scorching desert heat--and it has been hot in Texas--to protest the 
dump. Local residents have had no say over whether the waste dump 
should be constructed in Sierra Blanca; no say. They never were 
consulted at any stage in the process, but rather they were informed 
after the fact. Each time the waste authority or the legislature 
selected Hudspeth County for a dump site, and especially after local 
residents had already won a court case to reverse the selection of Fort 
Hancock, the news took local residents by complete surprise. At no 
stage in the site selection process were the residents of Sierra Blanca 
involved in the decisionmaking.
  Now, I said this is an environmental justice question. Listen to 
this, and I will come back with this tomorrow morning again. A 1984 
public opinion survey commissioned by the Texas Waste Authority 
provides some real useful context for how this has all taken place. The 
report is called, ``An Analysis of Public Opinion on Low-Level 
Radioactive Waste Disposal in Selected Areas.'' This report goes on to 
talk about the benefits of keeping the Latinos uninformed:

       One population that may benefit from [a public information] 
     campaign is Hispanics, particularly those with little formal 
     education and low incomes. This group is the least informed 
     of all segments of the population. . .. The Authority should 
     be aware, however, that increasing the level of knowledge of 
     Hispanics may simply increase opposition to the [radioactive 
     dump] site, inasmuch as we have discovered a strong 
     relationship in the total sample between increased perceived 
     knowledge and increased opposition.

  I'll tell you what, I would be ashamed to be a decisionmaker in any 
kind of process, any kind of consulting report, saying: Better not have 
these Latinos informed because there is a strong correlation between 
the amount of their perceived knowledge and their increased opposition.

  Well, I guess so. I guess, if every Senator had knowledge of a 
nuclear waste dump site that was going to be dumped in his or her 
backyard, the more he or she knew, the more likely they would be in 
opposition. And we are being told the people in the community just 
can't wait to have this. There is a danger. I am in profound 
disagreement with my colleagues that this poor Hispanic community could 
become a national repository for low-level radioactive waste. We are 
being told that this will be their savior, this compact will protect 
them from becoming a national repository.
  The conference report--and if my colleagues have any information or 
facts that contradict what I am about to say, I would certainly 
appreciate hearing it--the conference report on H.R. 629 would allow 
appointed compact commissioners to import radioactive waste from any 
State or territory. They have it within their authority to do so. There 
is no language that prohibits them from doing so. And both the State of 
Texas and nuclear utilities across the country will have an economic 
incentive to bring in as much waste as possible to make the dump 
economically viable and to reduce the disposal costs.
  Let me be clear about it again. This conference report does not have 
one word that would prohibit the appointed compact commissioners from 
importing radioactive waste from any State or territory in the country. 
If you had not stripped out our amendment, which the Senate unanimously 
supported twice, which said that the waste can

[[Page S9779]]

only come from Texas and Vermont and Maine, then there would be some 
protection of this kind. Not any longer. Don't be making the argument 
that this Compact, stripped of the protection for people, now provides 
people with the protection.
  Section 3.05, Paragraph 6 of the Compact provides that the Compact 
Commission may enter into an agreement with any person, State, regional 
body or group of States for importation of low-level radioactive waste. 
Shall I repeat that, because I have heard it said on the floor of the 
Senate that this Compact is great because it protects people from 
becoming a national repository site? Section 3.05, Paragraph 6 of the 
Compact provides that the Compact Commission may enter into an 
agreement with any person, State, regional body or group of States for 
importation of low-level radioactive waste. All it requires is a 
majority vote of the eight unelected compact commissioners. And the 
conference committee--and I know the Senators from the States out here 
were part of this--stripped away the amendment that said it could only 
come from Texas, Maine or Vermont.
  Mr. President, according to the Texas Observer, March 28, 1997:

       More than two or three national dumps will drive fees so 
     low that profit margins anticipated by States (and now 
     private investors) will be threatened. This economic 
     reality--and growing public resistance to new dumps--has 
     raised the very real possibility that the next dump permitted 
     will be the nuclear waste depository for the whole nation, 
     for decades to come.

  They could very well be right, and you know what? They could not have 
made that argument about what is about to happen to the people of 
Sierra Blanca if the conference committee had kept in our amendment. 
But, no, no. The utility industry, they know what the potential of this 
is. They didn't want that. The conference committee stripped the House 
and Senate environmental justice amendments.
  To avoid turning this low-income Mexican-American community into a 
national depository for radioactive waste, I offered two amendments. 
The first would have given local residents the chance to prove 
environmental discrimination in court, and the second, as I have said 
three times or more, would have limited incoming waste to the States of 
Texas, Maine and Vermont. My colleagues, in the dark of night in 
conference committee, decided that it would be a crime to give local 
residents a chance to prove environmental discrimination in court. And 
my colleagues, in the dark of night in conference committee, decided 
that it would be a crime to make sure that we codified in language our 
claim that the waste would only come from Maine and Vermont and Texas.
  The Senate instructed conferees to insist on these amendments, but 
the conference ignored the Senate's instructions and stripped them both 
and that is why Senators should vote against this compact. The 
conference committee even stripped the amendment limiting the waste to 
three States, despite the fact that this provision was passed by both 
the Senate and the House. Mr. President, we have a national 
responsibility to remedy this injustice, especially since Congress 
would be complicit in construction of this dump.
  This is not a purely State and local issue. I have heard this 
argument made: This is a State or local issue; we have no business 
being involved. Of course we do. We are being asked to vote on it.
  Then this argument that is being made, which I will get to in a 
moment, is, ``Well, wait a moment, there is no waste dump site for sure 
that has been selected.'' Do you know what? If you want to make this 
argument, why are we pressing for a vote on this compact? It is one of 
two ways: Either colleagues can come out here and they can say, ``You 
know what? Now these administrative judges have issued a report, and 
they should have, and what they said is correct saying this is a 
geologically unstable area. And so maybe, Senator Wellstone, all that 
you are talking about, about the injustice of this waste dump site 
being put right on top of a poor Hispanic community, may not happen, 
because we haven't really decided.'' So say some people right now in 
this debate. I heard it from my colleagues tonight. If that is the 
case, we shouldn't vote on this yet. Let's wait and see, and then we 
will know what is in the compact and we will know exactly where this 
has been sited.
  Or, we have to vote no, because if you vote yes, you are complicit in 
the construction of this dump. And I want to tell you, the siting 
process is outrageous. This siting process that took place in Texas is 
outrageous. It is an affront to anybody's sense of justice. This is not 
a purely State or local issue, because we have to vote on it.
  For constitutional reasons, the Texas compact cannot take effect 
without Federal legislation. Senators from all 50 States, not just the 
compact States, will be asked to give their consent.
  Mr. President, in the El Paso Times of May 28, 1998, Governor Bush 

       If there's not a Compact in place, we will not move 

  In an interview published April 5-11, El Paso, Inc., Governor Bush 

       The legislation would approve the Compact between Texas, 
     Maine and Vermont. If that does not happen, then all bets are 

  Moreover, the Texas Legislature has indicated it will not fund 
construction without the upfront money from the compact.
  The Texas Waste Authority requested over $37 million for fiscal year 
1998-1999 for construction of the dump, but the legislature allocated 
no construction money. They did not appropriate funding for the 
licensing process and for payments for the host county after the House 
zeroed out funding for the authority altogether.
  Congress is responsible for this dump. If you will, this dump site 
has been dumped on the Congress, it has been dumped on the Senate. 
Construction of the Sierra Blanca dump depends upon the enactment of 
the conference report to H.R. 629. If the Senate rejects it, Texas will 
not build a dump in Sierra Blanca. But within 60 days of its enactment, 
Maine and Vermont will pay Texas $25 million to begin construction.
  We wouldn't even be having this battle if these amendments had been 
kept in. I wouldn't have liked it. I would have still had questions 
about this, but I would have thought at least there was some sense of 
fairness and justice. I want every one of my colleagues to know, you 
voted, we voted unanimously, to make sure that we made it clear that, 
indeed, this waste could only come from Maine, Vermont, and Texas, and 
we voted unanimously that the people should have a right to 
prove discrimination in court.

  But now, that has been taken out in conference committee. So you have 
the compact without any of the protections for people. You have the 
compact, with all of its injustice, and it is simple: If you vote 
against it, then you are voting against Texas building a dump site, a 
nuclear waste dump site in Sierra Blanca, which is an environmental 
injustice. If you vote for it, then within 60 days of enactment, Maine 
and Vermont will pay Texas $25 million to begin construction. If my 
colleagues want to say, ``Paul, we agree this isn't right, what is 
being done to these people, but you don't know for sure it is going to 
be this site,'' then I say, ``Why don't we postpone this vote? Why are 
you so anxious to ram it through?''
  I heard about other compacts. There are two points. First of all, 
other compacts, other compacts, fine, but the issue at hand is this 
compact, this site selection.
  Mr. President, this whole argument about, ``Well, we don't really 
know the specific site,'' again, the administrative judge's decision is 
not binding. That is point No. 1. The Texas environmental agency's 
Governor appointees are not bound by this at all. They are all 
appointed by the Governor. They can do whatever they want. The views of 
this agency, as I said before, which will make the decision, are known. 
The executive director argued against the hearing officer's 
recommendation. He said:

       Additional information on ``special impact'' [i.e., 
     environmental justice] is not needed to make a decision on 
     the license application. The executive director recommends 
     issuance of a license because the applicant has met all the 
     requirements under the law.

  We know what they are going to do. Come on, let's just be direct 
about this. The Governor's views are known. I have quoted him.
  And then there is the box law. I say to my colleagues, you need to 
know the specifics of what you are voting on

[[Page S9780]]

here. The Texas Legislature selected Hudspeth County to host the dump 
in 1991, and the Texas Waste Authority identified a dump site near 
Sierra Blanca in 1992. The 1991 box law is still on the books, and 
regardless of what the TNRCC does, the box law requires that the dump 
be built in Hudspeth County, which is predominantly Hispanic and poor.
  I want to make that clear--I want to make that clear--that is where 
it is going to be built, and it is an environmental injustice. It is 
time we stand up against this kind of injustice. This is not the 
decision of the people of Maine or the decision of Vermont, but this is 
what is going to happen.
  Mr. President, this conference report is about nuclear utility 
rights, not State or local rights. The conference committee followed 
the wishes of the nuclear utilities, not the local residents. Nuclear 
utilities who stand to benefit from cheap disposal of nuclear waste 
strongly supported this legislation without amendments. Local 
residents, including the local Republican Congressmen, overwhelmingly 
opposed the dump.
  Of course, the utility industry got their way in conference 
committee. We know their clout here. They never wanted people 
anywhere--it is not, in all due respect to the people who are here 
tonight from Hudspeth County, it is not just you. This industry doesn't 
want regular citizens anywhere in the country to have a right to prove 
discrimination. And this industry has big plans for Hudspeth County as 
a national repository for waste, so they didn't want any amendment 
making it clear it could only come from Maine or Vermont or Texas.
  Mr. President, I think that I might have said enough for tonight, or 
maybe not. We will see how the debate goes. I will have tomorrow 
morning to speak about this as well.
  I have not, in all due respect, heard one argument on the floor of 
the Senate that is very persuasive. It is just simply not true this 
compact is all about giving people the protection from being a national 
repository site. It is simply not true that this is just sort of 
medical waste from hospitals, it is gloves. It is simply not true this 
is simply low level so we don't have to worry about it. It is simply 
not true that this is none of our business. This is a civil rights 
  Let me conclude by including some quotes, if I can find them.
  Mr. President, I will do the quotes tomorrow. It is a civil rights 
issue. That is what this is all about. This is the issue that we have 
been talking about. As a matter of fact, this is an issue of, every 
time we are faced with a situation about where a nuclear waste site 
goes, a dump site goes, or incinerator--and the list goes on and on--
then what happens is communities of color, low-income communities, are 
the ones that are targeted. That is exactly what has happened in Texas.
  We had amendments that would have provided some protection. The 
Senate went on record. Every Senator supported those amendments, and 
then they were stripped out of conference committee. That is why 
Senators should vote against this.
  Mr. President, I just want to make it clear that the League of United 
Latin American Citizens, LULAC, is adamantly opposed to this. I believe 
they are going to use this for scoring. That is important. By golly, 
people in the Latino community ought to hold every Senator accountable 
for their vote on this. It is a civil rights issue. There is a strong 
letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in favor of both 
our amendments which were stripped out of the conference committee in 
the dark of night. The House Hispanic caucus favored the amendments 
opposed to this compact, the Texas NAACP, League of Conservation 
Voters. This is a major issue of justice, and it is a major 
environmental issue as well.
  I conclude by urging my colleagues to vote against this compact. And 
on the floor of the Senate tonight and tomorrow morning I will also 
make an appeal to the administration: Mr. President, Mr. Vice 
President, we need you to speak out on this. You have talked about 
environmental justice. You have said it is a major priority. What is 
happening with this compact, what is now being proposed--just think of 
what this is going to mean for the people who live in Sierra Blanca. If 
there is ever one example that brings into sharp focus the issue of 
environmental justice, this is it. We need the President to make it 
clear that if this should pass, he will veto it. This compact should 
not pass in its present form.
  I yield the floor.
  Ms. SNOWE addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gorton). The Senator from Maine.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I will just make a few brief concluding 
comments in response to some of the issues that were raised by the 
Senator from Minnesota. I respect his views and his opinions although 
we certainly differ on the perspective on this issue. This isn't a 
unique or different approach to this issue of the disposal of low-level 
radioactive waste. Indeed, the U.S. Congress mandated that the States 
assume the responsibility of the disposal of low-level radioactive 
waste in or out of their States. And this is in response to a 
congressional mandate that began in 1980 and, as I said earlier, 
reinforced by amendments to that act in 1985.
  So this isn't a diversion from that approach. It isn't different from 
all of the other compacts that have been ratified by the Congress over 
time. And, as I said earlier, there are nine different compacts, that 
include 41 different States, including the State of Minnesota, the 
State that the Senator represents. So why should Texas and Maine and 
Vermont be any different?
  The Senator referred to some of the amendments that he had offered to 
this legislation, but they did not prevail. Those amendments did not 
prevail because those conditions and stipulations would require years 
of reratification. And I mention the fact that those conditions were 
not included in any of the other nine compacts that were enacted and 
ratified by the Congress over the years.
  We all respect the Senator's perspective on the issue of 
environmental justice. No one is suggesting for a moment that we should 
override the environmental issues, any of the issues that would 
adversely, and disproportionately adversely, affect a community with 
respect to public health and safety questions, environmental issues, or 
  We believe in the State of Texas--through its procedures, through its 
public procedures, through its political process, through its State 
laws, through the Federal laws--to make the appropriate decision, 
environmentally and scientifically and geologically, in terms of the 
safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste. That is the issue here. 
And we are doing this consistent with all of the other compacts and all 
of the other statutes that have been enacted by the U.S. Congress over 
the last 20 years.
  In fact, I was in the House of Representatives back in 1980 when this 
was a major question: How do we resolve it? It is not an easy question. 
It is not as if we do not have low-level radioactive waste. We have a 
problem, as we do with high-level radioactive waste. But we have 
hospitals and we have research laboratories, and we have to dispose of 
the materials that result from those facilities; we have no choice. And 
that is why we have this compact before the U.S. Senate, as do so many 
of the other States.
  Forty-one States, including the Senator's own State of Minnesota, 
have a compact. But now we are saying Texas and Vermont and Maine are 
not allowed to enter into a compact? Are we saying that the Governor of 
the State of Texas or the legislature, the house and the senate, are 
not concerned with the views of their constituencies with respect to 
this issue?
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?
  Ms. SNOWE. Are we saying that senators and representatives are not 
concerned with the views of the constituents who live in Sierra Blanca 
or any other locations where these facilities are sited? Are we trying 
to override the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, that are all referenced, I might add, in the 
conference report? None of this can be sited anywhere on Earth without 
regard to environmental and public health and safety questions. It has 
to go through a process.
  In fact, the Senator from Minnesota mentioned two administrative law

[[Page S9781]]

judges in Texas who have been conducting evidentiary hearings on the 
license application to construct and operate this disposal site. And 
the judges issued a proposal for decision on the application in 
Hudspeth County saying they needed more information in two aspects of 
the potential site. And the appropriate Texas agency is now taking the 
recommendation under consideration and responding on the safety 
question. And the judges want more information as to whether there are 
any negative socioeconomic impacts in this facility to the citizens and 
to tourism. So environmental justice is being considered. This isn't 
ignoring those issues. That is why this legislation is site-neutral, 
because we want the appropriate agencies and statutes at the Federal, 
State and local levels to take hold and determine what is the safest 
location, respecting the wishes of a community.

  Now, the Senator mentioned the people who don't support it in 
Hudspeth County. We don't even know, in the final analysis, if that is 
where it is going to be. That is up to the State of Texas through its 
process. That has been stipulated in law in terms of what they have to 
  It says:

       Nothing in this compact that diminishes or otherwise 
     impairs the jurisdiction, authority, discretion of the either 
     the following: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the 
     Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Nothing in the compact confers any 
     new authority to the State commission to do any of the 
     following: Regulate the packaging or transportation of low-
     level waste, regulate the health, safety and environmental 
     hazards from source byproducts and special nuclear materials, 
     or inspect the activities of licensees of the agreement of 
     the States or U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  All of it is in place, just like it has been done for 41 other States 
over the years. That is what we are talking about. We are not saying we 
are going to run roughshod over anybody's wishes or rights. That is a 
determination that has to be made with the State of Texas through the 
public process, which has been done and is continuing at this moment. 
That is what we are asking.
  So I hope that my colleagues will support the conference report, 
which is not unusual, not unlike any of the 9 previous compacts that 
have been ratified by the Congress over the last 20 years.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. First of all, Mr. President, I want to say to my 
colleague that this waste disposal compact is not functional. We have 
no nuclear waste dump sites that have been chosen. I am not sure how 
many of these compacts have ever chosen a dump site. I don't know 
whether my colleague knows the answer to that question. I don't, but I 
am guessing it's very few, if any. Let me be clear about that. I am not 
aware that any of these compacts have led to nuclear waste dump sites. 
If so, I bet it is precious few.
  I'm confused. On the one hand, we hear some discussion on the floor 
of the Senate about how we look at the selection by this person. Do the 
people in the community really want this? Then we hear that it may not 
even be in Hudspeth County. I spent 45 minutes going through the 
background of this, all the way from when the legislature made the 
decision in 1991. Of course it is going to be there. I went through all 
the quotes. Yes, you have some administrative judges. I ask my 
colleague, if you are convinced that we don't know what the site is 
yet--and, of course, one difference between this and any other compact 
is that we didn't have sites before--then why don't we wait for a vote 
on this until we know where the site is? That would be the best thing 
to do. That would be a fair thing to do.
  Commissioner John Hall, by the way, in talking about the issue of 
environmental justice--my colleague says, of course, the people are 
concerned about this--made it very clear that this issue isn't going to 
be addressed in the State licensing process. It has not been addressed 
and will not be before the final license is issued. My colleague may 
want to think otherwise because it is more comforting, but it is just 
not the case.
  The commissioners of the Texas administrative agency, TNRCC, which 
will make the final decision on the Sierra Blanca license, have stated 
that environmental justice must be addressed at the Federal level 
because Texas has no clear standards or requirements for evaluating 
them. Commissioner John Hall explained at a 1995 meeting of the TNRCC, 
``This whole issue probably needs to be addressed. But it is not this 
commission's job to articulate a new major policy of that sort. That 
has to be left to the United States Congress. That is not our job. Our 
job is to apply the standards as they exist, and while that may be a 
very legitimate issue, that is not our job.''
  You just can't have it both ways. People in Texas say, and the 
Commissioner says, ``We are not going to be dealing with this issue of 
environmental justice.'' I went through the process. They came across 
Hudspeth County and moved it away from other sites where people had 
clout. They have chosen a geologically unstable area. I have all sorts 
of religious and civil rights organizations who say this discriminates 
against people in the community who are disproportionately poor or who 
are Hispanic as well. The executive director of the TNRCC explained in 
his motion to strike that ``environmental justice is not one of the 
criteria to be considered under the Texas Radiation Control Act or the 
rules of the TNRCC in the commission's decision whether to license the 
facility.'' They are not looking at that at all. They are saying they 
can't. They are saying it is up to us. I had two amendments that my 
colleague from Maine supported--it was unanimous consent, and any 
Senator who wanted to disagree could have come to the floor and 
disagreed--which said people ought to at least have a right to prove 
discrimination if there is discrimination, and let's make sure this 
only comes from Maine, Vermont and Texas. Both of those amendments, at 
the wishes of the utility industry, were taken out in committee.
  I am saying to colleagues one more time--vote for this and you just 
watch. I will bet you every dollar I have, which isn't a lot, if we 
vote for this compact, that dump site will be located in this Hispanic, 
low-income community. I will bet you there is not one Senator in here 
who would want to make a bet with me on that. That is what this is all 
about. Don't be fooled. The amendments were stripped out. This compact 
now is a major injustice. It could have been a much better agreement, 
but somebody--and I don't even know who--decided they wanted to take 
out these amendments. Now it is up to colleagues in the Senate to vote 
against this. Otherwise, you will be voting for a major injustice. You 
will be voting for what I consider to be a violation of the civil 
rights of the people that live in Hudspeth County.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I have concluded my remarks for 
  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise today to support the conference 
report to H.R. 629, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal 
Compact, a Compact among the states of Texas, Maine, and Vermont. The 
Texas Compact which was introduced in the House by Representative 
Barton and has 23 cosponsors, and the conference report to the Compact, 
both passed the House overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support. I am 
confident that the conference report to the Texas Compact will now pass 
this body with the same commanding support it garnered in the House.
  In July of this year, I was a Conferee to the Texas Compact along 
with Senators Thurmond and Leahy. I thank Senators Thurmond and Leahy, 
Congressman Bliley who chaired the conference, and all other conferees 
for working together to accomplish the goal of passing the Texas 
Compact through conference without any unnecessary or distracting 
amendments that would have forced the Compact States to go through an 
arduous re-ratification process. After thorough consultation with the 
governors of the Compact States, the conferees unanimously agreed to 
recede from two amendments that were offered by Senator Wellstone. The 
Wellstone amendments would have spawned costly litigation and imposed 
strict limitation not imposed on other existing compacts. The conferees 
ultimately concluded that the amendments were not in the best interests 
of the Texas Compact.
  The passage of this Compact will place the States of Texas, Maine, 

[[Page S9782]]

Vermont in compliance with the 1980 Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy 
Act which Congress passed in an effort to establish a uniform Federal 
policy on nuclear waste disposal. While the Federal Government retained 
responsibility over high-level waste disposal, this act placed the onus 
on the States to dispose properly of low-level radioactive waste 
generated within their borders.
  To promote and encourage the fulfillment of this obligation by all 
States, Congress authorized the States to enter into compacts with 
other States to share waste disposal facilities. It is pursuant to this 
obligation and mandate that the Texas-Maine-Vermont Compact was 
negotiated and approved by the legislatures of Texas and Vermont and 
through a public referendum in the State of Maine. The compact was 
subsequently signed by the governors of all three states.
  Currently, nine interstate compacts involving 41 States are operating 
through Congressional consent. I have received a letter signed by the 
Governors of Texas, Maine, and Vermont urging Congress to pass this 
compact as passed by the States. This compact would bring these states 
into compliance with federal law. The hard work for drafting a compact 
that all three states would ratify and that would meet with 
congressional approval has been completed for some time. The States 
have carefully crafted a compact that will serve their low-level waste 
disposal needs in a responsible and lawful manner.
  The States have done their part and have been patiently waiting for 
congressional consent before moving forward with plans to construct the 
waste disposal facility. It is now time for this body to do its part in 
assuring that this compact will be passed swiftly without further 
delay. I therefore support this important piece of legislation, and 
encourage my colleague to do the same.
  Ms. SNOWE addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. There are 40 minutes equally divided and 
reserved for tomorrow. Both sides are yielding back the balance of the 
time for tonight?
  Ms. SNOWE. That's correct.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. That's correct.