Beto Garcia and his mother Hermila were informed
of uranium contamination in their drinking water
by the EPA in October, 2004, after uranium
mining near their home in Garcia Hill, Texas.
For Immediate Release (Wednesday, May 23, 2007):
For More Information:
Ken Kramer, 512-476-6962
Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086
House Passes Bill on Regulation of Radioactive Substances
Amendment by Rep. Escobar to Protect Citizens Rights Added
Tuesday night the Texas House of Representatives
gave initial approval to SB 1604 by Sen. Robert
Duncan (R-Lubbock), a bill that would consolidate
state regulation of radioactive substances.
doing so the House overwhelmingly defeated an
attempt to table an amendment that preserves
citizen rights to a contested case hearing on
the expansion of a uranium mining operation.
Sierra Club state director Ken Kramer praised
Rep. Juan Escobar (D-Kingsville) – the author of the amendment – and Texas House members for their “strong support for the rights of citizens to contest proposed uranium mining activities that pose the threat of contaminating their water.”
SB 1604, carried in the House by Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton),
would consolidate regulation of radioactive substances within
the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). While
the bill itself is supported by a wide variety of interests,
there has been considerable opposition to one provision of
the bill in the version passed by the Senate.
would limit the ability of citizens, county judges, and city
officials to ask for a contested case hearing on so-called
Production Area Authorizations (PAAs) for in-situ uranium
Rep. Escobar’s successful House amendment adds conditions under which a contested case hearing – a formal hearing before an administrative law judge – could be requested by local citizenry concerned about the potential negative impacts of uranium mining on land, water and other resources.
In offering the amendment, Rep. Escobar explained that after 26 years of living with a uranium company that had failed to live up to its commitment to clean up contamination in Kleberg County, he wanted to preserve the right to contest the expansion of mining operations. While his district was the one presently impacted, he said, other areas would benefit from having citizen rights to contest pollution threats preserved, particularly in South Texas where uranium mining is expanding.
Rep. Bonnen refused to accept the amendment and moved to table it. The House in a bipartisan spirit defeated the motion to table the amendment by a resounding 91-48 vote. Rep. Bonnen then accepted the amendment.
The House will vote today on final passage of the bill. Uranium mining interests may attempt today to strip out the bills’s
provisions on uranium mining rather than allow the contested
case hearings on PAAs.
The Sierra Club urged House members
to hold firm on retaining citizen rights to contest all uranium